BSIP VEM / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY BSIP VEM / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Tooth decay. Illustration of tooth decay, or dental caries, in human molar teeth seen from above. The white enamel of two of the teeth has been partially destroyed. The gums (pink) help to keep the tooth firmly in place in the jaw. 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 less resistant dentine below the enamel, exposing the nerve-rich pulp and causing intense pain. Eventually tooth death will occur.
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