What causes tooth decay?

Fort Worth pediatric dentistChildren are incredibly susceptible to developing tooth decay. This is why pediatric dentistry focuses on preventing and treating tooth decay as early as possible to help preserve and protect oral tissue. Without treatment, tooth decay can develop into a systemic health issue. Studies have shown that untreated tooth decay among children can affect speech development, produce noticeable discomfort, and lead to chronic oral infections.

Tooth decay is caused by a specific strain of bacteria that eat through the surfaces of teeth when tooth enamel is damaged. Dental caries (cavities) are the second-most common infectious disease. Cavities are considered an infectious disease because the bacteria that eat through teeth are orally transmitted – normally from parents to infants.

What damages tooth enamel?

Tooth enamel is a mineralized coating around teeth that protects the softer structures of teeth from decay and breakage. Even though tooth enamel is very strong, it can be damaged by exposure to strong acid and bad habits like improper oral hygiene or bruxism (clenching and grinding teeth).

How do bacteria affect teeth?

Cavities form when bacteria eat through tooth structure. This is only possible when tooth enamel cannot protect teeth due to damage. Once tooth enamel is permanently damaged, the dentin part of teeth is exposed. Dentin is much softer than the enamel surface of teeth. Since it is softer, cavity-causing bacteria will eat through teeth and eventually form a depression in tooth structure if a tooth is not professionally treated with a restoration.

What treatment methods are available?

While pediatric dentistry involves focusing on prevention, cavities can still form on teeth. If tooth decay is detected, a dentist will recommend a restoration. This is because a tooth cannot heal on its own once permanently damaged. A restoration involves placing a durable material over the decayed area of a tooth so that its external structure is protected from further damage. A restoration will prevent a cavity from deepening and widening, too. It is important to treat decay as soon as possible so that patients can retain healthy biological tooth structure.

Call our team at Fort Worth Children’s Dentistry today to reserve a checkup at our family-friendly practice.