From plaque to tooth decay
Tooth decay can develop when plaque is not removed. Plaque is a clear film that coats the teeth; it is produced by the bacteria living in our mouths. Particles of our food stick to this film, in turn becoming food for these bacteria. The bacteria feed, release acids as they digest and, of course multiply. Carbohydrates provide an optimal environment for proliferation. What we feed them matters!
If not regularly and properly brushed away, the acids released can gradually erode the tooth’s enamel.
- First stage of decay: pain-free, tiny caries are soft and tacky, and difficult to rid of plaque with a brush – and so the erosion proceeds;
- Second stage: In time, the caries extend through the full thickness of the enamel. Once this tough outer coat is breached, decay sets to work on the dentine, the softer – and sensitive – inner tissue of the tooth Characteristics of Stage 2: early pain and rapid erosion of the softer inner structure
- Third and final stage: Untreated, the decay eventually reaches the innermost chamber of the tooth, which is where the nerve (or pulp) resides. Designed to alert us to problems in the body, the nerve becomes inflamed and severely painful. Once at Stage 3, it is more likely that more complex treatment is required to relieve the pain of pulpitis (inflamed nerve) and save the tooth.