The Physiology Behind Tooth Decay

While you might have a basic understanding of tooth decay, there’s likely much about the topic you don’t yet know. A deeper understanding of your oral health allows you to know when you have a problem that is likely to take care of itself and when you have one that requires a professional treatment from a dentist. Learn more about tooth decay and how to take the best care of your pearly whites.

Tooth Cavity Close UpAge Makes a Difference

One of the first things to know about tooth decay is that it’s more common now than ever in children and babies. A child’s teeth aren’t as developed or strong as an adult’s, so acids, plaque and bacteria will eat away at their teeth. Eating and drinking habits for small children also impact oral health, with many parents not realizing the harmful effects of giving a child a bottle or sippy cup filled with milk or juice when they go to sleep, or to drink throughout the day. Snacking on things like fruit snacks, starchy crackers, or sugary treats throughout the day—called “grazing”—is also harmful to a child’s teeth.

Recognizing the Signs of Tooth Decay

Knowing what tooth decay looks like is another essential component of treating it. Indications of tooth decay include:

  • Discolored teeth
  • Bad breath or a bad taste in your mouth
  • Inflammation of the gums around a sore tooth, which is also a sign of an abscessed tooth
  • An ongoing or recurring toothache

Properly Diagnosing Tooth Decay

To rule out an abscess and anything else that might be going on with your teeth, your dentist will make sure you actually have tooth decay in order to prescribe proper treatment. You’ll likely be asked questions about your medical and dental history before the dentist uses a small mirror to examine your teeth. You might also have X-rays taken of your mouth and teeth to better pinpoint which of your teeth may be decayed. Common treatments for tooth decay that has worked through tooth enamel include fillings, crowns, tooth extraction and root canals.

Oral health is a large component of your overall health. By taking good care of your teeth, you’re taking equally good care of the rest of your body as well.