Tooth decay is the condition wherein an area of the tooth becomes soft and dark and breaks down, leading to the formation of a cavity. It starts with a small hole in the outer layer of the tooth (enamel). If not treated at an early stage, it progressively reaches deeper layers of the tooth. The area of break-down increases in size, and when it reaches the nerve of the tooth, it can be very painful.

It is a common ailment, especially among children, but can occur at any age. It is generally caused by sugar in the food and drinks.

If food remains in the mouth for some time, the sugar in the food is acted on by the bacteria present in the mouth. The bacteria form acid, which then dissolves the enamel of the tooth to form a cavity.

A serious form of tooth decay affects nursing infants. The milk is retained in the mouth as the child falls asleep with the bottle in the mouth. This milk is broken down by the bacteria to form acid, which leads to the formation of cavities in the teeth.

Causes of tooth decay

Poor Oral Hygiene: Inadequate or improper brushing.

Sweet food and drinks: Periodic snacking on sticky foods, which are not easily dissolved by saliva. Examples are bread, biscuits, potato chips.

Worn out dental fillings: Sticky food tends to cling to these areas.

What is the treatment for tooth decay

Treatment depends on the extent of damage that has occurred. In the early stages, the decayed cavity is cleaned out and a dental filling is placed. In more advanced stages, a root canal treatment may have to be performed to save the tooth.


Certain preventive measures are known to reduce the incidence of tooth decay.

Brush your teeth twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste. Brushing before bed is very important as it keeps the mouth clean during the entire time we are asleep.

Floss between teeth. This helps to remove food caught between the teeth, where the brush cannot reach.

Go for regular dental check-ups. Tooth decay is very easy and painless to treat if detected in its early stages.

Reduce the number of times you eat. Snacking frequently increases your chances of having tooth decay.

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