Tooth Decay and Repair

Tooth decay is caused by a thin, white, sticky film called plaque. Plaque constantly accumulates on your teeth and contains harmful bacteria. When the plaque is combined with sugars from the foods we eat, it forms an acid. The decay process begins when this acid attacks the tooth enamel (1). If the decay is not treated early, the cavity will rapidly progress toward the pulp (2) in the central part of the tooth. Discomfort may result because the pulp contains the nerve of the tooth. If the decay continues into the pulp, infection may set in.

The sugars that provide the breeding ground for decay-causing bacteria can be found not only in candies and fruits, but also in meats and vegetables and other "healthy" foods, and in bodily fluids and waste products. It's therefore imperative that after every meal you brush with a plaque-reducing toothpaste, or at least rinse with fluoridated water or mouthwash.

(c) 1995; Last updated 8/5/95
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