Dental Caries

Dental Caries are caused by bacteria.  Decay starts on the surface of a tooth, but eventually penetrates the enamel (outer layer) of the tooth. After the enamel is penetrated, the bacteria enter the dentin (inner layer) of the tooth. Here the decay grows and spreads like a cancer, ultimately destroying the tooth. This widespread tooth destruction occurs because the dentin is composed of material that is very vulnerable to the bacteria. Because dentin is more susceptible to bacteria breakdown, the decay can spread very rapidly.

Decay also occurs extensively around old fillings that are deteriorating and allowing leakage to occur.  When this leakage occurs between the tooth and the filling, the bacteria are allowed an easy entrance to the underlying tooth structure. This is especially dangerous because the environment around and under the filling is the perfect incubator for growing
the germs. Mercury/silver amalgam fillings are especially susceptible to leakage and decay. Further, the amalgam hides the decay on the x-rays until the decay is advanced.

Decay requires the removal of the infected tooth structure and placement of a dental restoration. The four basic types of single tooth restorations are: Fillings, Inlays, Onlays and Crowns.
If the tooth decay gets too deep, it can infect the nerve of the tooth causing the tooth to abscess. If this happens, the only treatment options are extraction of the tooth or root canal therapy.

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