Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey
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Tooth decay is the destruction of tooth material, which includes:
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Everyone has bacteria in their mouths. The bacteria eat sugars that are left on the tooth, which then creates acid. The acid and the bacteria form plaque on the teeth. This plaque clings to the teeth and holds the acid to the tooth. The acid wears away the tooth. Over time, the acid can lead to tooth decay.
Everyone is at risk for tooth decay. Some things that may raise this risk are:
Problems may be:
The dentist will ask about your symptoms and health history. A dental exam will be done.
Images may be taken of the tooth and surrounding bone. This can be done with x-rays.
Sometimes tooth decay will repair itself. This is most likely if it is caught early.
Treatment for more severe decay includes:
To lower the risk of this problem:
Academy of General Dentistry
Mouth Healthy—American Dental Association
Canadian Dental Association
The Canadian Dental Hygienists Association
Fluoride for prevention of dental caries. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/prevention/fluoride-for-prevention-of-dental-caries. Accessed September 16, 2021.
Statement on early childhood caries. American Dental Association website. Available at: https://www.ada.org/en/about-the-ada/ada-positions-policies-and-statements/statement-on-early-childhood-caries. September 16, 2021.
Tooth decay. National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research website. Available at https://www.nidcr.nih.gov/health-info/tooth-decay/more-info. Accessed September 16, 2021.
Last reviewed July 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Mary-Beth Seymour, RN Last Updated: 9/16/2021