A few hours after brushing, bacteria and food particles form plaque on the surface of your teeth. These bacteria produce an acid that erodes the calcium in the tooth’s enamel and leads to the formation of minute cavities. If left untreated, the acid will eventually eat through the tooth’s enamel and begin to erode the dentin beneath it. Dentin is extremely porous and erodes much faster than the overlaying tooth enamel. For this reason, it is possible for a large cavity to form inside the tooth without showing many visible signs.
As the decay continues, bacteria migrate through the porous dentin and infects the pulp. When your body launches an immune response to the infection, the blood vessels around the tooth enlarge and press against the nerves entering the tooth, causing toothache. If the infection proceeds and a significant amount of bacteria invade the pulp, then the tooth and nerve may die and an abscess may form.
If treated early, tooth decay usually does not pose a serious health threat. However, if the decay is allowed to progress, the tooth will likely die. The spreading infection may result in a general feeling of ill health, fever, swelling of the face and neck, and even blood poisoning.
To learn more about how to treat existing tooth decay and what you can do to keep your mouth cavity-free in the future, please contact us today.