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Toothache Symptoms and Causes
What is tooth decay?
Tooth decay is damage to a tooth's surface, or enamel. It happens when bacteria in your mouth make acids that attack the enamel. Tooth decay can lead to cavities (dental caries), which are holes in your teeth. If tooth decay is not treated, it can cause pain, infection, and even tooth loss.What causes tooth decay?
Our mouths are full of bacteria. Some bacteria are helpful. But some can be harmful, including the ones that play a role in tooth decay. These bacteria combine with food to form a soft, sticky film called plaque. The bacteria in plaque use the sugar and starch in what you eat and drink to make acids. The acids begin to eat away at the minerals on your enamel. Over time, the plaque can harden into tartar. Besides damaging your teeth, plaque and tartar can also irritate your gums and cause gum disease.
You get fluoride from toothpaste, water, and other sources. This fluoride, along with your salvia, helps the enamel repair itself by replacing the minerals. Your teeth go through this natural process of losing minerals and regaining minerals all day long. But if you don't take care of your teeth and/or you eat and drink lots of sugary or starchy things, your enamel will keep losing minerals. This leads to tooth decay.
A white spot may appear where minerals have been lost. This is an early sign of tooth decay. You may be able to stop or reverse the decay at this point. Your enamel can still repair itself, if you take better care of your teeth and limit sugary/starchy foods and drinks.
But if the tooth decay process continues, more minerals are lost. Over time, the enamel is weakened and destroyed, forming a cavity. A cavity is a hole in your tooth. It is permanent damage that a dentist has to repair with a filling.Who is at risk for tooth decay?
The main risk factors for tooth decay are not taking care of your teeth and having too many sugary or starchy foods and drinks.
Some people have a higher risk of tooth decay, including people who
In early tooth decay, you usually don't have symptoms. As tooth decay gets worse, it can cause
Dentists usually find tooth decay and cavities by looking at your teeth and probing them with dental instruments. Your dentist will also ask if you have any symptoms. Sometimes you may need a dental x-ray.What are the treatments for tooth decay and cavities?
There are several treatments for tooth decay and cavities. Which treatment you get depends on how bad the problem is:
There are steps that you can take to prevent tooth decay:
NIH: National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research
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