"Tooth decay, also known as dental cavities, or dental caries, is a disease that is five times more common than asthma and seven times more common than hay fever." -- Michael C. Alfano, Dean of New York University College of Dentistry.
As warned by World Health Organization, tooth decay is one of world's most prevalent health problems in industrialized and especially in developing countries. An estimate of 90% people in United States has at least one cavity. Children and senior citizens are two groups of people at highest risk.
In children, it usually happens when sugar-laden foods such as candies are frequently left on teeth. In mouth, there are bacteria that live in plaque (a sticky, whitish film produced by our saliva) that convert sugar into acids. These acids eat away tooth's protective coating also known as enamel. Excessive destruction of this outer surface of tooth results in tooth decay.
What makes adults also prone to being afflicted with tooth decay is when aging causes gums to move back from teeth. Combined with gum disease, this gum recession exposes tooth root to plaque. This will cause breakdown of tooth root. People who already have a number of dental restorations (fillings and crowns) may also suffer from tooth decay, especially around teeth's edges, or margins.
The cost of spoiling your sweet tooth. Tooth decay, particularly in front teeth, may become an impediment towards achieving a pleasing appearance, thus affecting self-esteem. Cavities can also impact an individual's emotional and social well being by causing pain and discomfort from toothache. In addition to this, it can also cause some serious health problem like malnutrition by interfering with an individual's ability to eat certain foods. If tooth decay is not treated early, complication from infection could cause swelling of face and neck, fever and blood poisoning.
Prevention is a lot less expensive AND less painful than treatment. Although tooth decay remains as one of most common chronic disease, today many people are in better oral health than before. The consolidated effort of dental associations and many other health organizations in raising oral health consciousness, support of government, and cooperation from public made this improvement attainable. Several community-based programs aimed at solving oral health dilemmas are carried out. These include extending fluoridated water and schools having sealant projects for children. However, these programs cannot reach many remote areas where ethnic minorities are and where many people are living in poverty. Their access to formal education and dental care is very limited. This shows need for more community-based dental programs to help people take care of their teeth.