What is tooth decay and how does it form?
A cavity, or decay, begins with the buildup of plaque and bacteria on your tooth, creating acid, which then breaks down the hard surface of your teeth, aka enamel. Once the acid breaks through this outside layer, the decay spreads faster into the softer inner layer of the tooth, aka dentin. If decay is left untreated, it can spread further into the tooth root and infect the nerve.
What happens if tooth decay is not removed?
Decay starts on the outside of the tooth, in the enamel, where there are no nerve endings, so you may not feel any pain or sensitivity at this point. As decay progresses and gets deeper, you may notice cold or sweet sensitivity. If it continues further, the sensitivity can be persistent and if it reaches the pulp and causes nerve infection, can cause major toothache!
External damage to the tooth from decay includes cracking or fracture lines, potentially beneath the gum-line and along the root of the tooth. This could ultimately lead to you losing the tooth! This is why it is important to detect cavities early to prevent these consequences.
How are cavities treated and what is the best prevention?
Enamel and dentin decay is removed under local anesthesia and a tooth colored resin filling is permanently placed. If the decay is deep into the nerve, other treatment options may be required including root canal and/or crown depending on the extent of the decay.
Oral hygiene prevention such as brushing with fluoride toothpaste, flossing and avoiding sugary treats (clean your teeth if you do indulge), combined with regular checkups to your dentist equal a great chance for a healthy mouth with no cavities, which will also help to minimize your risk of tooth loss.