About This Condition
Tooth decay is the gradual breakdown of the tooth, beginning with the enamel surface and eventually progressing to the inner pulp.
Tooth decay is caused by acids produced by certain mouth bacteria in dental plaque. Factors that affect this process include oral hygiene, diet, meal frequency, saliva production, and heredity. Teeth with significant decay are said to have caries, or cavities.
People with tooth decay may have tooth pain, including sensitivity to cold food and drinks.
Treatment includes daily brushing of teeth with toothpaste (especially after meals), flossing, limiting sugar in the diet, and regular professional teeth cleanings by a dental hygienist. Dentists commonly apply fillings to dental cavities. Topical fluoride applications or sealants (plastic coatings that form a barrier between bacteria and the chewing surfaces of the teeth) may be recommended.