Tooth decay is a progressive disease resulting in the interaction of bacteria that naturally occur on the teeth and sugars in the everyday diet. Bacteria break down sugars into acids, that in turn breaks down the minerals in teeth, forming a cavity. Dentists remove the decay and fill the tooth using a variety of materials, restoring the tooth to a healthy state. Nerve damage can result from deep decay and may require a crown (a crown covers the whole tooth, making it stronger). Avoiding unnecessary decay requires strict adherence to a dental hygiene regimen: brushing twice a day, flossing once a day, regular dental checkups, diet control and fluoride treatment. Practicing good hygiene avoids unhealthy teeth and costly treatment.
A dental infection can occur when a tooth is traumatized or develops a large cavity. Changes in the shape or color of the teeth are warning signs that infection may soon follow. Often, a small pimple will form on the gums next to the tooth or your child may experience pain and swelling.
Antibiotics are sometimes used to control infection prior to fixing the tooth. If a tooth needs to be extracted, a space maintainer is usually placed to preserve space.