Drs. Golovan & Golovan
Norman Golovan D.D.S. 
Bruce Golovan D.M.D.
Family & Cosmetic Dentistry

28790 Chagrin Blvd. #300
Woodmere Village, OH 44122
(216) 591-0022
Designing Healthy and Beautiful Smiles!

Call for an appointment today!
(216) 591-0022

What is tooth decay, and why is it a problem?

Tooth decay is a disease that will damage and break down teeth.  A tooth has an outer layer (enamel), a middle layer (dentin) and a center (pulp).  The worse the damage is, the more layers are affected.  Many people do not know it, but tooth decay is a serious public health issue.  If untreated, tooth decay can lead to pain, loss of teeth and even loss of confidence.  Often people with a toothache cannot get through their normal daily routines.  It may cause for absences at school or at the work place, sleep loss and lose the ability to eat properly.  An abscess (pus-filled sac) caused by a cavity, can cause serious or even life-threatening infections if not properly treated.  It is not only simpler and safer to prevent tooth decay all around but more affordable as well than to treat it.  
What causes tooth decay?
Bacteria in the mouth feeds off of the sugars that are found in foods and drinks.  This bacteria produces an acid that will attack the teeth.  Mouth bacteria thrives on these sugars, and no this doesn't mean only candy.  Many beverages even including milk, contain sugar that can lead to tooth decay.  Every time these foods and drinks are consumed, acids will attack the teeth for 20 minutes longer.  When you have sugary foods or drinks many times a day or sip on the same one for long periods of time, the acid repeatedly attacks your tooth enamel.  The acid will eat away at the tooth and can cause tooth decay.  This is how a cavity will form.  If a cavity or decay goes untreated for too long it can cause an abscess and lead to serious infections.
Who gets tooth decay?
People of all ages can get tooth decay.  The risk for decay may increase among those who:

- Often sip and and snack on foods and drinks high in sugars.
- Drink bottled water or other water without fluoride.
- Have dry mouth due to medications or other reasons.
- Have weak enamel due to genetics or a childhood illness.
- Don't brush twice daily and floss once.
- Don't visit the dentist regularly.
Frequently asked questions about tooth decay.
Can tooth decay be passed from person to person?
Not exactly, but the bacteria that causes decay can be shared.  Parents can pass along harmful bacteria to infants and children.  For example, bacteria can be passed on from kissing, sharing a cup or spoon or anything else that can carry saliva from one mouth to another.

Where are common places that decay can form?
Tooth decay can damage any tooth, in any place.  It most often occurs between the teeth and in the grooves of the back teeth, where food is more likely to be collected.  Back teeth are harder to clean since they are not the easiest to reach.  Decay can also form at the tooth root and go below the gum line.

Do you have tooth decay?
It often takes months or years for a cavity to fully develop.  Symptoms of tooth decay can include spots on teeth, bad breath and lose fillings.  Tell your dentist if your teeth have been sensitive to hot or cold and if you have any pain in a tooth.  Your dentist will thoroughly examine your teeth and take x-rays if necessary.  

What kind of treatment is there for tooth decay?
The treatment will depend on how early the decay is caught.  Before cavities form, fluoride treatments or sealants may solve the problem.  If you have a cavity, you will need a filling.  A larger cavity may need a crown to fully restore the tooth.  If the center (pulp) of your tooth is involved, you may need root canal treatment to save the tooth.  A very badly damaged tooth may have to be removed completely.  Your dentist will discuss the proper options and solutions for you and your specific tooth.