Dentists in Washington D.C and other places often talk about tooth decay. You know that tooth decay isn’t a good thing, but what exactly is tooth decay? What causes it, and what treatments are available to treat tooth decay?
What is Tooth Decay?
Tooth decay is a general term that refers to degradation of one or more parts of the tooth. Tooth decay can lead to holes in the tooth, cracks, and chipping. Left untreated, tooth decay can also lead to gum disease, and even more severe health issues, such as heart disease. There’s no reason to let tooth decay continue to such extremes, however. With regular dental visits, no one has to experience tooth decay.
What Causes Tooth Decay?
The underlying cause of tooth decay is bacteria. Oral bacteria make acid that constantly eats away at the teeth. The bacteria comes from plaque, a sticky substance that forms on the surface of the teeth. You can feel plaque buildup when you run your tongue over your mouth and detect a filmy substance. When you brush away plaque, that filmy feeling is gone.
Bacteria growth is accelerated when you eat sugary foods or drink sugar-laden beverages. It’s further accelerated when you don’t brush and floss your teeth enough.
The filmy substance called plaque can harden over time, making it impossible to brush away simply. When plaque hardens, only a dental professional can remove it. In the meantime, the acid from the bacteria in plaque continues to eat away at the teeth. This is just one reason why it’s so important to have regular dental visits.
What Parts of the Tooth Can Be Affected by Tooth Decay?
The Tooth is made up of several different layers. The surface of the tooth is made up of enamel. It serves as a protective outer layer. The next layer is called dentin. When enamel is eroded due to tooth decay, the dentin begins to be affected, causing what you know as a toothache. The center of the tooth is referred to as the pulp. The pulp contains the nerve endings and blood vessels that keep the tooth alive. All of these parts are susceptible to tooth decay.
Who Can Get Tooth Decay?
Tooth decay can affect people of all ages, including children. In fact, it’s recommended that children have their first dentist visit even before the first tooth erupts to the surface since tooth decay can affect teeth beneath the gum line.
How is Tooth Decay Treated?
The first line of defense against tooth decay is proper oral hygiene at home. Your dentist can guide you as to the latest recommended guidelines for brushing, flossing and rinsing. If you do develop tooth decay, there are many options for treatment, depending on the severity of the problem. These include filling cavities, fluoride treatments, bonding, extraction, dental implants and root canals. Some of these treatments are serious and invasive, while others are less severe.
Tooth decay doesn’t have to get to a stage where extraction and implants are necessary. Your dentist in Washington, D.C. can help you keep tooth decay from ever becoming an issue. Contact us today to book your appointment!