Friday, March 5, 2010

What's tooth decay?

Tooth decay is the destruction of the enamel (outer surface) of a tooth. Tooth decay is also known as dental cavities or dental caries. Decay is caused by bacteria that collect on tooth enamel. The bacteria live in a sticky, white film called plaque. Bacteria obtain their food from sugar and starch in a person's diet. Tooth decay usually does not cause symptoms until you have a cavity or infected tooth.

When this occurs, symptoms include:
  • Toothache.
  • Bad breath or a foul taste in the mouth.
  • White, gray, brown, or black spots on the teeth.
  • Loose fillings.
  • A broken tooth
  • A tooth that is sensitive to pressure.

The pain may become worse when you:

  • Eat sweets.
  • Eat hot or cold foods or drink hot, cold, or acidic liquids, such as citrus drinks.
  • Chew food or gum.
  • Breathe in cold air.
  • Brush your teeth.

Severe tooth decay may cause a pus-filled sac to form in the bone at the base of a tooth. Symptoms of abscess include:

  • Fever.
  • Swollen glands.
  • A swollen jaw.
  • Deep, throbbing pain.

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