The two terms are often used interchangeably: if you have tooth decay/a cavity, then you might need a tooth filling. But the truth is that tooth decay and cavities describe two different things. Decay is a progressive tooth disease caused when enamel is compromised and the tooth is exposed to harmful oral bacteria. A cavity is the hole that forms in your tooth as the decay works its way through your tooth structure. Fortunately, you can prevent tooth decay and cavities from forming with the right routine of good hygiene and regular preventive dental care.

How Tooth Decay Leads to Cavities

Your teeth are made to protect themselves rather efficiently and effectively. In fact, the enamel that surrounds them is the most resilient substance your body produces. Made mostly of minerals, however, enamel is subject to erosion, mainly from acids produced by oral bacteria that make up plaque and tartar. When organic acids weaken enamel, oral bacteria can get past it and infect the main tooth structure, called dentin. As the infection, or decay, spreads, it erodes the tooth structure, leaving an increasingly growing cavity in its wake.

What to Do About Decay and Cavities

Once decay reaches your tooth’s dentin, preventing it isn’t possible, but your dentist can stop it from causing severe damage by treating the decay. If a cavity has formed, then a tooth filling may be your best option. The filling is made from tooth-colored composite resin that blends in with the color of your tooth’s dentin, and is designed to replace the tooth structure that decay has eroded.

For more information on how to improve your smile, contact Austin cosmetic dentist Dr. Ernesto Carmona Jr. now.