Tooth Decay begins when the protein of your saliva combines
with the sugars and carbohydrates of food particles left on
and between your teeth. This combination creates bacteria-laden
plaque, from which acid is produced that eats away at the
hard enamel shell around your tooth. Left unchecked, a hole
will be created in the enamel and a cavity will rapidly form
in the softer dentin which lies under the enamel. If the cavity
is caught in time, usually a Filling
will correct the problem. Larger cavities may require an Inlay
or Onlay, or a Crown. However,
if nothing is done and the decay spreads, the sensitive pulp
(nerve) may become involved, often causing an Abscess,
and Root Canal Therapy or Extraction
may be required.
No cavity on first X-ray.
Months later, cavities that start
between the teeth can't be seen by visual examination,
but they can be detected on an X-ray.
This cavity was detected and filled before the patient felt
any discomfort, and before the nerve became infected or the
tooth became abscessed.
There is another cavity shown in the X-ray on
the right. Can you find it? It's difficult for the untrained
eye to spot. Click here to see where it is. (Hint: It's not the
left edge of the top left tooth. That's just the edge of the
frame around the X-ray).