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(Cavities; Dental Caries; Dental Decay)
- Enamel—the hard outer surface of the tooth
- Dentin—the second softer layer beneath the enamel
- Pulp—the inside of the tooth containing the nerve and blood supply
- Root—the area of the tooth anchoring it in the bone
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- Having poor dental hygiene
- Having high numbers of bacteria in the mouth
- Having an insufficient amount of fluoride (some communities in the United States add fluoride to the drinking water)
- Taking medication that contains sugar or causes dry mouth
- Eating a diet high in sugar
- Enamel erosion from gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or bulimia nervosa
- Malnourishment (such as vitamin and mineral deficiencies)
- Having certain conditions that decrease the flow of saliva in the mouth, such as Sjogren syndrome
- For children: having parents or siblings with severe tooth decay
- Tooth sensitivity to hot or cold
- Tooth discomfort after eating
- Darkening of the tooth surface
- Bad breath or a foul taste in the mouth
- Throbbing, lingering pain in tooth
- Asking about pain in the teeth
- Visually inspecting the surface of the teeth
Probing teeth with dental instruments to check for:
- Surface defects
- Taking x-rays of teeth
- Numbing the tooth and surrounding tissue area
- Removing the decay with instruments
- Filling the hole with a dental filling; the filling can be silver or tooth colored
- The tooth is numbed and a hole is drilled through the top of the tooth.
- Pus and dead tissue are removed from the tooth.
- The inside of the tooth and the root (nerve) canals are cleaned and filled with a permanent filling.
- The root (nerve) canal is sealed.
- A crown is placed on the tooth to protect it.
Tooth Extraction (Removal)
- Tooth decay and/or tooth infection is too extensive for filling or root canal.
- A break or crack in the tooth that has allowed for decay is too severe to be repaired.
- An extensive infection exists between the tooth and gum.
- Partial bridge
- Tooth implant
- Practice proper dental hygiene, including:
- Brushing teeth with fluoride toothpaste after meals or at least twice per day.
- Using a soft-bristled toothbrush or a powered toothbrush.
- Daily flossing between teeth and gums—Bacteria living between the teeth can only be removed with floss or interdental cleaners.
- Getting regular dental check-ups and teeth cleaning (usually every 6 months).
Limit the amount of sugar and carbohydrates you eat and drink, including:
- Sodas and other sweetened drinks
- Other sweets
- Rinse your mouth with water after eating sugars
- Replace your toothbrush every 3 to 4 months
- Avoid sugar-containing drinks (including fruit juices), especially in baby bottles
- Chew gum with xylitol or sorbitol (may reduce your risk of developing cavities)
- Reviewer: Michael Woods, MD, FAAP
- Review Date: 09/2016
- Update Date: 07/15/2014