HATTIE YOUNG / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY HATTIE YOUNG / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Drilling child's tooth. Dentist using a dental drill to treat a child suffering from tooth decay (caries). Tooth decay is caused by plaque, a sticky mixture of food remains and bacteria that builds up on teeth. The bacteria in plaque feed on sugars in the food particles, and produce an acid by-product that slowly destroys the tooth. Toothache occurs when the bacteria invade the living "pulp" inside the tooth. Dentists treat tooth decay by drilling away the affected area and filling the hole with a tough mercury amalgam or cement.
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