Tooth decay is the process by which the enamel and dentine are eroded away by bacteria and plaque acid that accumulates in the mouth. Tooth decay can be very painful and can eventually lead to infection and tooth loss. However, tooth decay is completely preventable by the adequate and regular brushing and flossing of teeth.
Plaque is a filmy substance that is rich in bacteria and other debris, which clings to the teeth. The decaying bacteria and foodstuff release acid which erodes the enamel of the teeth causing dental cavities, or caries as they are otherwise known. If left unchecked, these cavities continue to grow until they penetrate to the centre of the tooth and begin to erode the pulp. The nerve endings are also located in the centre of the tooth and this is why patients experience toothache. Once the infection has taken hold in the tooth the body may begin to produce an excess of white blood cells to fight it. These pus deposits build up and painful tooth abscesses can form.
If decay reaches the point where it has infected the centre of the tooth the dentist will have to carry out a procedure called a root canal treatment in order to save it. This involves drilling a hole into the middle of the tooth and removing the infected mater and the nerve endings. The cavity will then need to be filled with medicine to prevent further infection before being covered with composite-resin dental filling and finally a crown.
Cavities can also be filled before they reach the centre of the tooth. Fillings used to be made form a silver amalgam substance, but controversy due to potentially poisonous mercury vapour and a more aesthetic appearance has seen a widespread change to tooth coloured composite resin fillings.
One sure fire way of preventing dental cavities in the first instance is to brush and floss correctly everyday. Maintaining a high standard of oral hygiene prevents the build up of plaque and stops tooth decay before it starts. It is also important to keep up six-monthly appointments with a Leeds dentist who will be able to spot the first signs of tooth decay, and repair any existing damage.