This text provides information in simple language on the subject: tooth decay

What is tooth decay?

Tooth decay is a dental disease. The disease often occurs in children.

Is the tooth decay not treated? Then the teeth can be damaged.

What happens with tooth decay?

The teeth consist of three layers:

  1. The top layer is called enamel. The enamel protects the tooth.
  2. The middle layer is called the dentin. The technical term for dentine is: dentine.
  3. The lower layer is called tooth pulp. The technical term for tooth pulp is: pulp. There are nerves in the pulp. Is tooth pulp injured by tooth decay? Then an affected person often has a toothache.

The picture shows: A healthy tooth consists of these layers.

© W & B / Szczesny / Jörg Neisel

The tooth decay first attacks the tooth enamel. After that, the tooth decay attacks the dentin and pulp. It causes brown holes in your teeth. Tooth decay also causes toothache. But a dentist can often treat tooth decay well.

How can you recognize tooth decay?

First, the tooth decay attacks the tooth enamel: then white spots are usually visible on the teeth. But the tooth decay can also get worse. Then the white spots turn brown.

Caries attacks the dentin and pulp through the enamel: This creates holes in the teeth. An affected person then often has a toothache. Is the tooth decay recognized early? Then the dentist can stop the tooth decay.

The picture shows a tooth with caries.

© W & B / Szczesny / Jörg Neisel

What are the causes of tooth decay?

Some of the causes of tooth decay include:

  • Dental plaque with bacteria
  • poor oral hygiene
  • much sugar
  • little saliva
  • few minerals in the tooth enamel

We take in carbohydrates with our food. Bacteria can turn carbohydrates into acid in the mouth. This acid then attacks the tooth enamel. This is how the enamel loses minerals.

When we eat we produce saliva. This saliva removes the acids in the mouth: the saliva washes food residues and bacteria out of the mouth. And the saliva also builds up tooth enamel again.

Too little saliva can increase the risk of tooth decay. Too few minerals in the tooth enamel can also increase the risk of tooth decay. This is why some people develop tooth decay more quickly than others.

Even young children can develop tooth decay. This form of caries is called: bottle caries.

The causes of bottle caries are:

  • Beverages with sugar in the feeding bottle
  • Drinks with fruit acid in the feeding bottle

Bottle caries can completely destroy teeth.

© Jupiter Images GmbH / Thinkstock LLC

Here's how to avoid tooth decay in young children:

The feeding bottle is there for drinking. But some parents also give their children the feeding bottle as a replacement for the pacifier. Parents should only give their toddlers the feeding bottle to drink.

Can your child already drink from a mug? Then you should no longer give your child the feeding bottle. This is how you can avoid bottle caries.

Tooth decay is contagious. Do you have tooth decay? Then your children can also develop tooth decay:

  • Therefore, parents should not lick their child's pacifier.
  • And that's why parents shouldn't lick their child's feeding bottle attachment.

Dental care is also very important for young children.

What can you do about tooth decay?

A dentist can help with tooth decay. Is tooth decay recognized early? Then the dentist can often treat the tooth decay well. But is the tooth decay far advanced? Then the affected tooth may have a hole. Often the dentin is then affected. Therefore, the dentist has to remove the damaged area on the tooth. The hole then gets a filling.

Has the tooth decay seriously damaged the tooth? Then the tooth may no longer be able to be filled and a crown may be necessary. A crown is a denture.

How can you avoid tooth decay?

Everyone can do something against tooth decay themselves:

  • Brush your teeth thoroughly and regularly.
  • Brush your teeth at least twice a day.
  • Brush your teeth before bed.
  • Use dental floss.
  • Use small brushes for the space between your teeth.
  • Use toothpaste with fluoride.
  • Eat very little sugar and sweet foods.
  • Avoid drinks that are high in sugar or acid.

It is also important to have your teeth checked regularly by the dentist.

Hint: Do you grind your teeth? Then do without chewing gum.

Chewing gum can increase the grinding of teeth.

Where can you get more information?

You think: maybe I have tooth decay? Then go to the dentist. The dentist will examine you and give you all the important information.

Would you like to read more about tooth decay? You can find more information about tooth decay here. Attention: This link leads out of our simple language offer. The information is then no longer in plain language.

Attention: This text only contains general information. The text does not replace a visit to the doctor. Only a doctor can give you accurate information. Are you feeling sick? Or do you have questions about an illness? Then you should always see a doctor.

We wrote the texts together with the Light Language Research Center. The light language research center is at the University of Hildesheim.