Address: Viale Regina Giovanna, 17 – 20129 Milano
Request a consult

What is a cavity
or tooth decay?

Foods high in carbohydrates, such as fruits, candy, bread, or milk stick to the surfaces of your teeth.

If not cleaned properly, the bacteria in your mouth will then digest these bits of food and produce an acid. The bacteria in your mouth that feeds off of the foods you eat grow into a sticky film that remains on your teeth called plaque. The acid that is produced from the plaque can dissolve the enamel coating of your teeth and create holes in them called cavities. This biofilm that is not removed from your teeth undergoes a process of mineralization and becomes a hardened substance called calculus. Calculus can only be eliminated through professional hygiene procedures in the office.

Stages of a cavity or tooth decay

  • 1

    The outer layer of your teeth, called enamel, starts to weaken and demineralizes due to the acid producing plaque. You will notice white spots on your teeth. At this point, we can reverse the process by using fluoride treatments to remineralize your enamel.

  • 2

    If the process continues, you will start to see the white spots turn brown. At this point, the enamel starts to deteriorate and the cavity begins to form. Once the enamel has deteriorated the course of treatment is to remove the decay and clean the tooth well. When all of the decay is removed, the missing tooth structure is replaced with a restoration and/or filling.

  • 3

    If the cavity is not removed in time, the process can continue into the inner layer of your tooth called dentin. Dentin is the layer of your tooth located under enamel and is more susceptible to acid damage. At this stage you may feel symptoms of sensitivity to cold, hot and/or sweets. Your tooth can be treated with a restoration and/or filling if there is sufficient healthy tooth structure remaining. In some cases, if there is not enough tooth structure remaining to support the restoration and/or filling the tooth may need to be protected with a crown. A restoration that encapsulates the entire tooth.

  • 4

    The bacteria may spread into the pulp of the tooth.
    The pulp is the layer beneath the dentin and enhouses blood vessels and nerves to sustain and provide sensation to the tooth. You may experience symptoms of pain and pressure within the tooth. The course of treatment at this point is a root canal to clean the damaged pulp, fill and close the pulp to external bacteria and protect the tooth with a crown.

  • 5

    The final stage of tooth decay. The bacteria continues to spread within the pulp leading to an infection and abscess forming at the bottom of your tooth. If a root canal can not be performed, the tooth will need to be removed and the area will be thoroughly cleaned.