What is Tooth Decay?

This section is designed to provide you with some useful general information concerning your dental health. Dentistry is ever evolving. Advancements in dental researches continue to influence our treatment approaches and understanding of oral diseases: its causes, manifestations and treatment options. Please check back with us from time to time for recent articles on new studies and findings. The articles presented here are mere information to educate our patients. They are not a substitute to a clinical exam and consultation with a licensed dental practitioner. Please call our office at 908-689-5129 to schedule a visit with one of our dentists for more information on any particular dental concern. All articles are courtesy of the American Dental Association's Council on Dental Practice's Marketing Handbook Series.

Plaque is an insidious substance—a colorless, sticky film—that blankets your teeth and creates an environment in which bacteria erode tooth enamel, cause gum irritation, infection in inner structures such as pulp and the roots, and in extreme cases, tooth loss.

Some of the biggest culprits causing plaque are foods rich in sugar and carbohydrates, including soda beverages, some juices, candy and many kinds of pasta, breads and cereals.

Plaque also can attack fillings and other restorations in your mouth, which can lead to more costly treatment down the road.

Plaque is the main cause of tooth decay.  It can also cause your gums to become irritated, inflamed, and bleed. Over time, the plaque underneath your gums may cause periodontal disease, which can lead to bone loss and eventual tooth loss.

Inside your teeth, decay can gradually destroy the inner layer, or dentin.  It can also destroy the pulp, which contains blood vessels, nerves and other tissues, as well as the root. 

Periodontal disease is advanced gum disease. This serious condition occurs when the structures that support your teeth—the gums and bone—break down from the infection.  Pain, hypersensitivity and bleeding are some of the signs of periodontal disease.

Simple Preventative Measures

The two best defenses against tooth decay and gum disease are a healthy, well-balanced diet and good oral hygiene, including daily brushing with fluoride toothpaste, flossing and rinsing. Most public drinking water contains fluoride, but if you are unsure of your water supply, then use a good quality mouth rinse containing fluoride.

A good way to help your oral health between brushing is chewing sugarless gum; this stimulates your body's production of saliva, a powerful chemical that actually neutralizes plaque formation and rinses decay-causing food particles and debris from your mouth.

In some cases, our office can prescribe anti-cavity rinses or apply special anti-cavity varnishes or sealants to help fight decay.