February 8, 2002, Newsletter Issue #37: What Causes Tooth Decay?

Tip of the Week

Dental decay (caries) is caused by bacteria that live in plaque on the teeth. A tooth is essentially a hollow piece of bone with an enamel cap. Enamel is just like glass. There are some species of bacteria, of the many that live in the typical mouth, that produce more acids than others. When acid meets glass, the glass is etched. The same process occurs in the mouth. Bacteria eat sugars that pass through the mouth and make acids. Acid then etches the tooth surface a little at a time until the enamel is penetrated. Thus, a cavity is formed.

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