Tooth decay is the second most common disease in the U.S. (the first being the common cold). That’s because tooth decay is very easy to get if you are careless with your teeth. The mouth is among the organs exposed most to material from the surroundings and so has the highest probability of getting bacteria and other pathogens.

Tooth decay is a condition in dentistry that is caused by acid and its effects on the tooth. The acid is produces as a result of bacteria on teeth surfaces digesting food particles stuck in and between teeth. The acid erodes the enamel away causing a cavity. If remained untreated, the whole tooth can decay down to the gums and create inflammations and infections. Tooth decay happens all the time. However, if the teeth are treated regularly the small decay can be reversed. The main cause of serious tooth decay is carelessness.

It is necessary that an individual brushes their teeth at least twice every day, in the morning and before bedtime. Brushing regularly is the first line of defense against harmful acids. Although a large amount of food is removed simply by swallowing or drinking water, there are still a fair amount of sugary and sticky foods that are not. Substances like caramel, toffee and syrup are very harmful to teeth if left in contact for more than an hour. Always brush within 20 minutes of eating sticky and sugary substances.

Brushing only cleans 65 percent of the teeth surface. Flossing makes up for the other 35 percent. A toothbrush can only reach the explicitly exposed surfaces of teeth. The minute spaces between adjacent teeth provide flourishing valleys for bacteria. Flossing helps clean these small gaps between teeth and also helps dislodge food particles like meat fibers.

Junk food is the most harmful of all. Candy and confectionery contain very soluble sugars and nutrients that are immediately digested by bacteria. Acids are produced as a result of this digestion, which then damage the tooth enamel.

The first signs of tooth decay are chalked white spots on the enamel surface. These spots are caused due to the acids eroding away minerals from the enamel. The process is known as demineralization. During this stage, the damage is reversible if given a fluoride treatment. This can be done at home but it’s better than a professional dentist does a treatment.

If the condition remains untreated, the acids erode away the outer enamel and cause a cavity. This cavity can reach the dentine. The dentine is the softer bone layer underneath the enamel. Once a hole is made through the enamel to the dentine, the damage cannot be reversed naturally. A dentist can use fillings to correct the situation and prevent the cavity from reaching the pulp. The pulp is known as the ‘living part of the tooth.’ It contains blood vessels and nerves and is highly sensitive. In some serious cases, tooth decay may reach the pulp and expose the nerves. This condition is the most painful and is almost unbearable. Emergency dental attention is needed for such patients.

Exposure of the pulp also leads to the possibility of bacterial infections. Such infections cause an abscess (swelling) or a fistula (opening to the surface of the gum) to form.  The best way is to keep regular checks on your teeth by seeing a dentist and to clean them regularly. Further complications are more painful and costly.