Enamel is the hard outer crystal-like layer. Dentin is the softer layer beneath the enamel. The pulp chamber contains nerves and blood vessels and is considered the living part of the tooth.
If you want to prevent cavities, how often you eat can be just as important as what you eat. That's because food affects your teeth and mouth long after you swallow. Eating cookies with dinner will do less harm to your teeth than eating them in the middle of the afternoon as a separate snack.
Sometimes it's all too obvious that you have tooth decay: You're in pain or you can see a dark spot on your tooth. But in other cases, you may not even know there's a problem until you see your dentist.
To find tooth decay early, some dentists are using newer technologies, in addition to visual exams and X-rays. The devices claim to be able to detect the beginnings of decay, when the tooth begins to soften, before it turns into a cavity.
To understand what happens when your teeth decay, it's helpful to know what's in your mouth naturally.
Dental caries is the medical term for tooth decay or cavities. It is caused by acid erosion of tooth enamel.
Fillings, which are materials used to fill cavities in the teeth, and crowns, which slip over and cover the tops of damaged teeth, sometimes loosen and fall out. This is rarely an emergency, but it can be painful because the exposed tooth tissue is often sensitive to pressure, air or hot and cold temperatures.