Tooth decay is damage that occurs in our teeth when the bacteria in our mouth make acids. The acids eat a hole in the tooth and create a cavity. If the cavity goes untreated, it can cause pain, infection, and eventually tooth loss.
A tooth has 3 layers. The outside layer is called enamel. The middle layer is called dentin. The center of the tooth is the pulp. Bacteria love the warmth, and their main objective is to eat their way through the enamel and dentin to get to the pulp. This is the warmest section of the tooth. The more layers that are affected by the bacteria and their acids, the worse the toothache and damage will be.
So what is the main cause of tooth decay? Bacteria get hungry just like we do. They feed on the sugars in the food we eat. As the bacteria eat, they make acids that damage our teeth. The acids can keep destroying our teeth for 20 minutes after we eat. Some of the practices or conditions that make one more prone to tooth decay are:
- Not brushing and flossing your teeth
- Eating foods that are high in sugar
- Not having enough saliva (saliva washes away food)
A toothache is the most common symptom of tooth decay. You can also develop swelling in your gums next to a sore tooth. Swelling can be a sign of a cavity that has progressed through all 3 layers of the tooth. It usually requires a root canal and crown to save it.
If you develop a toothache, don't wait. Go see your dentist. Sometimes tooth pain will come and go, but the tooth decay will not stop. It will keep growing. Save yourself time, money and grief. Brush two times and day and floss once. Try to limit foods that are high in sugar and see your dentist for regular cleanings and check-ups.