Chances are you or someone in your family has had a cavity at least once in your lifetime. Most people associate cavities with the discomfort of sensitive teeth. While cavities can cause your tooth to be overly sensitive, the truth is most cavities cannot be felt until they’ve advanced further into your tooth. Dr. Locke explains tooth decay and how you can treat or prevent it.

What Causes Tooth Decay?

Tooth decay is not a disease or infection itself. It is the process by which bacteria and acid attack your teeth and compromise their structural integrity. Foods that contain refined sugars and other fermentable carbohydrates lower the pH (alkaline-acid balance) of plaque. Once plaque’s pH drops below 5.5, it becomes acidic and attacks your tooth’s enamel. By sapping your tooth of enamel-strengthening minerals (i.e., calcium and phosphate), acidic plaque prevents your enamel from remineralizing as it attacks. When your enamel wears thin, your tooth is essentially defenseless to bacterial infection and tooth decay. Chips, cracks, and other damage from traumatic injury can also leave your tooth defenseless and lead to bacterial infections, cavities, or gum disease.

Preventing and Treating Tooth Decay

Your mouth is never completely free of plaque or bacteria. Both constantly form and coat the inside of your oral cavity in a thin biofilm. By brushing and flossing at least twice a day, however, you can prevent plaque and bacteria from lingering long enough to cause damage to your oral health. Also, ensure that you attend your dental checkup at least twice a year to allow Dr. Locke to inspect your oral health for early signs of decay. Treating tooth decay depends on its severity. In its early stages, cavities can usually be treated by filling the hole with a tooth-colored composite resin. As it progresses, your tooth decay may require a root canal treatment or possibly even extraction to prevent the infection from spreading. To learn more about treating or preventing tooth decay, schedule a consultation by calling our Waco dental office at (254) 776-4888. We welcome patients from Waco, Woodway, McGregor, Hewitt, and surrounding communities.