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FAQ Frequently asked questions
What is tooth decay?
Tooth decay is when your teeth become eroded by plaque, which is a combination of bacteria, saliva and food particles. The bacteria in plaque produce acid, which erodes your tooth enamel. Once the hard outer layers of your teeth are eroded, it can affect the soft …
What are the symptoms of tooth decay?
There are no symptoms of tooth decay in the early stages, which is why it is important to get regular dental check-ups to catch it early. Symptoms of late-stage tooth decay include toothache and sensitivity, bad breath, visible holes, or grey, brown or …
What causes tooth decay?
Tooth decay is caused by plaque that builds up on teeth. Plaque is a mix of bacteria, saliva and food particles. It is particularly damaging when you consume food and drink that is high in sugar, because the sugar causes the bacteria to produce more acid.
How is tooth decay diagnosed?
Tooth decay is usually diagnosed during a routine dental check-up. Your dentist may also take an X-ray of your teeth to detect the extent of cavities.
How is tooth decay treated?
If caught early, tooth decay is treated with a fluoride varnish. If caught late, when the decay has reached the soft middle of your tooth, it may require root canal treatment or tooth extraction.
Can tooth decay be prevented?
You can help reduce the risk of tooth decay by brushing at least twice a day, flossing at least once a day and avoiding between-meals sugary foods and snacks.
What is the outlook for tooth decay?
If caught early, the tooth decay is easily treated with a fluoride varnish, but if left untreated, it can require root canal treatment or a tooth extraction.
What increases the chances of developing tooth decay?
Tooth decay happens more often to the teeth at the back of your mouth. It is also more common in people who are young or old, do not brush or floss properly, eat or drink food high in sugar, snack between meals, or have eating disorders.
How common is tooth decay?
Although tooth decay is not as common as it once was, thanks to cavity-fighting fluoride in most treated water supplies, it is still a widespread problem.
About this article
Author: Dr Idan Ben-Barak PhD, MSc, BSc (Med)
First answered: 13 Jul 2015
Last reviewed: 19 May 2018
Rating: 4.4 out of 5
Votes: 124 (Click smiley face below left to rate)
Category: Tooth decay