Dental decay is the softening of enamel and dentine of a tooth brought about by acid attack after you have eaten or drunk anything containing sugars. It can lead to a hole in the tooth, called a cavity. Decay damages your teeth and may lead to the tooth needing to be filled or even taken out.
Enamel is the hard, protective outer coating of the tooth. It does not contain nerves or blood vessels and is not sensitive to pain. Dentine lies under the enamel, forming most of the tooth, and it can be very sensitive to pain.
Dental decay is caused by plaque acids that gradually dissolve away the enamel and dentine of the tooth. Plaque is a thin, sticky film that keeps forming constantly on your teeth. It contains many types of bacteria that feed on the sugars in the food you eat to produce acids.
The acid attacks can last for an hour after eating or drinking, before the natural salts in your saliva cause the enamel to 'remineralise' and harden again. It's not just sugars but also the carbohydrate foods and drinks that react with plaque to form acids (These are the 'fermentable' carbohydrates such as the 'hidden sugars 'in processed food, natural sugars like those in fruit and cooked starches.)
Snacking between meals on sugary or acidic foods and drinks can increase the risk of decay, as the teeth come under constant attack and do not have time to recover.
Toothache is a warning that something is wrong and you should visit your dentist straight away. If you don't do anything, this will usually make matters worse and you may lose a tooth that could otherwise have been saved. Your dentist @ Healthy Roots will help you through the process and give you personalised attention.