What is Tooth Decay?
Tooth decay (also known as cavities or holes) are caused by harmful bacterial infections. It is the process where the hard outer protective coating of the tooth, called the enamel, is eaten away by the acid produced by the bacterial infection.
(Find out if you are at risk with our Dentimed Dental Risk Assessment Form For Cavities And Tooth Decay)
The bacteria live in the plaque (which develops when food substances are left sitting on the teeth). Because these bacteria don’t like oxygen, they burrow deep down into the plaque and tooth enamel… trying to escape the oxygen.
As you can see from the image below, a cavity starts as a small area on the surface of the tooth… at this point in the decay process the damage can often be reversed and it is predominantly painless. As a result, these early stage cavities may possibly only be identified by a dental health professional. Which is why as dental professionals we suggest regular dental check ups to identify issues early.
Once the decay progresses and the bacteria get deeper into the enamel or into the dentin, (the inner part of the tooth) pain can start to develop.
As the decay and harmful bacteria get really deep into the structures of the tooth you can experience significant pain, and the bacteria can find their way into the blood stream. Once this occurs, you may wind up with a localized abscess but generally from here things are really serious and your whole body has the potential to become involved (i.e. the infection is now systemic). This is because the infection travels anywhere your blood flows, which is throughout your entire body, (e.g. lungs, joints, heart etc).
For individuals with a compromised immune system, tooth/dental decay can be a very significant issue as systemic infections can become life threatening. Please visit us to find out if you are at risk… without exaggeration, you’re life may just depend on it!