BSIP VEM / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY BSIP VEM / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Tooth decay. Illustration of a cross-section through a human tooth with dental caries, or tooth decay. The tooth consists of enamel (white) covering the dentine (pink) and the pulp (red) with its nerve fibres and blood vessels. The gums (red, at centre left and right) help to keep the tooth firmly in place in the jawbone (yellow). Tooth decay (black) is caused by the build-up of plaque, which consists largely of food remains and bacteria. The bacteria mainly live off carbohydrates, producing acids as they break them down. If untreated the acid will destroy the enamel and dentine, exposing the pulp and causing intense pain. Eventually tooth death will occur.
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