Tooth decay and cavities are often used synonymously, but the truth is that they describe two sides of the same coin. Tooth decay is a progressive condition that is largely caused by inadequate hygiene and dental care, and that leads to the formation of cavities in your teeth.
Tooth decay affects over 90% of adults in the United States today. Therefore, to protect your smile from it, it’s important to know the difference between tooth decay and cavities, and how to prevent or treat them.
What is Tooth Decay?
The plaque that forms on your teeth (and eventually calcifies into tartar, if not brushed away) contains hundreds of different kinds of oral bacteria. Certain types of oral bacteria, specifically Streptococcus mutans, convert sugar and carbohydrates into acids that attack the mineralized layer of enamel that protects your teeth.
This initial stage of enamel erosion is the first phase of tooth decay. When enamel is compromised, oral bacteria can get past it and infect your tooth’s main structure, called dentin, exacerbating the decay.
What is a Cavity?
As tooth decay develops and spreads through your tooth, it leaves a hole, known as a cavity, which grows larger the longer tooth decay remains. Because a cavity is caused by the erosion of your tooth structure, the only way to repair it is with an appropriate restorative dental treatment, such as a tooth filling.
After your dentist cleans away the infected tooth structure and remaining oral bacteria, he will fill the cavity with a tooth-colored filling to restore the tooth’s health and integrity.
How to Prevent Both
Despite the fact that they’re the most prevalent dental health condition today, tooth decay and cavities are highly preventable with good hygiene and preventive dental care. The driving factors behind decay are the bacteria found in plaque and tartar, so be sure to brush your teeth at least twice a day and floss at least once to keep plaque under control.
Also, visit your dentist for routine checkups and cleanings at least once every six months to effectively remove tartar—calcified plaque that cannot be removed with your toothbrush.
Our primary goal is to enhance the health and quality of life of every one our patients through customized, comprehensive dental care.
To improve your chances of preventing tooth decay, or to treat a cavity that has already developed, be sure to visit your dentist as soon as possible! Book an appointment Call Sunnyvale Dental Care today at (408) 720-0900.
We also proudly serve patients from Santa Clara, Cupertino, Mountain View, San Jose, Campbell, Palo Alto, and all surrounding communities.