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What is tooth decay?

Tooth decay is the disease process that causes tooth destruction. It is caused by bacteria on the tooth surface that breaks down carbohydrates (sugars) that you eat. The breakdown products are acids that dissolve tooth structure. Left untreated the decay process can lead to toothaches, infection and tooth loss.

Tooth decay is the process by which hard tooth structure is infected and becomes weak and soft. How does this happen? There are bacteria that exist in the mouth and they thrive on sugar. Any Food with sugar (candy, carbohydrates, soda etc...) will cause the bacteria to produce an acid. It is this acid that causes decay. The hard outer shell of a tooth is made of Enamel and the softer inner part of a tooth is referred to as the Dentin. When decay only affects the enamel it is possible for the enamel to remineralize. However, if the decay begins to get into the dentin then the tooth needs to be treated. The part of the tooth that is infected must be removed and a proper restoration must be placed depending on the extent of the infection. (Filling, Inlay, Onlay, Crown)

 

 

Aaron B. Schwartz, DDS
Pediatric Dentistry

Tooth decay occurs when a specific bacteria (that lives on the tooth surface) consumes the "left-over" carbohydrates remaining on teeth after eating. In turn, this bacteria secretes (poops) out acid. This acid melts a hole through your enamel (the protective armor on teeth). Once the hole burns completely through enamel, the bacteria can penetrate into the tooth's dentin and then eat/consume the tooth itself. This is tooth decay. Don't leave carbohydrates left on your teeth after eating!

Tooth decay is a cavity.

Acid producing bacteria live in our mouths. Some of us have higher levels of acid producing bacteria. These are the bacteria that cause decay/cavities. They particularly like to eat fructose and sucrose. As they ferment these sugars they produce acid which attacks the teeth and eats them away, putting a hole in them (cavity/decay).

Decay is soft and mushy. In its severe form decay is so large that the crown of the tooth is completely destroyed by the bacteria. The good news is decay is preventable.
Tooth decay is a process by which the tooth breaks down. There are a number of reasons for tooth decay including a poor diet high in sugars and acid, inadequate personal oral hygiene, genetics, and other factors.

Initially enamel is broken down, followed by dentin. The decay may even get into the pulp containing the nerve.

It is extremely important to visit your dentist to evaluate if you have decay. Sometimes it can be visible to the naked eye. Other times, it requires taking x-rays. 

Make an appointment to see your dentist as soon as possible!
Dante A. Gonzales, DMD
Orthodontics & Dentofacial Orthopedics
Tooth decay is a process created by the bacteria that live in our mouths. The bacteria use the food that passes through our mouths to create a sticky substance called plaque. The plaque, which is full of bacteria, releases acid onto the teeth. The acid then starts to break down the outer layer of the tooth, the enamel. If the plaque is not removed frequently by proper oral hygiene then the plaque will continue to produce and release acid onto the surface of the tooth and can eventually decay through the enamel and into the dentin. This can continue until the decay reaches the pulp, or nerve center and blood supply of the tooth. Usually after the decay has reached the pulp, root canal therapy is needed to remove the bacteria from the tooth.

Dental decay is the process of decalcification of the inorganic portions of the tooth. The process results from the metabolism of simple carbohydrates by oral microorganisms. 3 things are necessary for dental decay to form. [1] a susceptible tooth, [2] bacteria, [3] a simple fermentable carbohydrate. The bugs are very specific since they need to withstand an acidic environment. The streptococcus genus has several strains associated with tooth decay, but the strep mutans is the predominant culprit. Lactobacilli play a role but are not as involved. The initial formation of plaque development starts with a sticky pellicle that allows the bacteria to attach to the tooth. Then the bacteria can take hold. Get it all off twice a day and dental decay will never be a problem. Remember enamel is the hardest substance in the whole human body!

John H. Paul, MD
Adult Reconstructive Orthopedic Surgery
Tooth decay is when the bacteria on your teeth get enough food and are left undisturbed long enough to start destroying your teeth. Once the bacteria make a tiny hole they are harder to clean off and chances are the hole will get bigger until you have a cavity that has to be filled, or even worse a tooth that has to be pulled. The best thing to do is prevent decay. Eat healthy foods, low in processed sugar, and clean your teeth after eating.
Abraham Speiser
Dentist
Tooth decay is the destruction of tooth by a bacterial disease called dental caries (pronounced the same as carries.) Early destruction removes calcium from the tooth while later destruction results in a hole in the tooth we refer to as a cavity. Cold, hot and sweet sensitivity is common at this stage. If the caries affects the dental pulp (the "nerve" at the center of the tooth,) the tooth becomes infected (known as abscess.) Pain (toothache) and/or swelling may occur. In 3rd world countries, dental abscess is often listed as one of the annual top 10 causes of death. 

There are 3 main types of this disease: pit and fissure caries (in the grooves on the biting surfaces and several other surfaces of the teeth), smooth surface caries (on the surfaces of the teeth next to the tongue, next to the cheek and between the teeth) and root caries (also called geriatric caries, since frequently the roots are exposed in older age when the gums recede.) Each of these 3 types of caries is caused by different strains of bacteria. The well-known treatment is to remove the tooth decay and restore the tooth (a filling.) Dental research has resulted in the addition of 2 additional treatment modalities, prevention (diet, oral hygiene, fluoride, pit & fissure sealants, other) and re-calcification (reversal of early caries to normal tooth using chemicals.) Ongoing research is voluminous. There is a separate journal, "Caries," dedicated to this disease.
Tooth decay is actually the destruction ("decaying") of a tooth. It's caused by bacteria that are allowed to stay on your teeth (due to lack of brushing and flossing). Typically, the decay will result in a hole in the tooth (otherwise known as a cavity). Left unchecked, the tooth will probably break or become infected.
Tooth decay is a destruction of the tooth enamel. It occurs when foods containing carbohydrates (sugars and starches) such as milk, pop, raisins, cakes or candy are frequently left on the teeth. Bacteria that live in the mouth thrive on these foods, producing acids as a result. Over a period of time, these acids destroy tooth enamel, resulting in tooth decay.
Tooth decay is a hole in a tooth. Decay results from acids from dental plaque destroying the outer and sometimes inner layers of the tooth. Dental plaque is bacteria in your mouth. Plaque can be removed by proper brushing and flossing.
Tooth decay is a situation where bacteria produces acids that are released in/on your teeth. It occurs when bacteria is allowed to sit on your teeth for an elongated amount of time and eventually causes holes/breakdown. Prevention is the key -- good home care and maintenance including brushing, flossing (Waterpik), and rinsing with mouthwash!
Tooth decay, often referred to as a cavity is formed when bacteria that normally exist in your mouth use carbohydrate-containing foods (cookies, candy, sweetened cereal, fruit, soda, etc.) to produce acid. This acid can penetrate the hard surface of your teeth to make those painful, damaging holes that bring you to the dentist. Untreated, tooth decay can cause a more serious infection of your tooth that would require a root canal or for the tooth to be extracted.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.