Activity 5A: Tooth Decay

Give the students a copy of “Tooth Decay.” Each student should also be given a black crayon. Have the students color in the different types of decay as you discuss this process. Discuss with the students the process of tooth decay. Dental decay (caries) is a pathological process, when allowed to continue, results in a cavity. Dental decay occurs in three general areas of the tooth.

  1. Pit and fissure decay (caries) found mainly on the chewing surfaces of premolars and molars (as well as small pits on the tongue side of front teeth).
  2. Smooth surface decay (caries) found on tooth surfaces other than pits and fissures.
  3. Root surface decay (caries) might be found on any root surface. 

Dental decay usually takes months or even years to occur. Decay does not continue at a fixed rate. The decay process stops and starts. The decay process is thought to start during periods of acid attacks, which cause demineralization, and stops during periods of remineralization. A cavity results when demineralization (acid attacks) on the tooth keeps ahead of remineralizaion. Cavities, or caries, are not nearly as much of a problem as they once were due to improved oral health practices (emphasis on flossing and brushing, using soft toothbrushes and proper brushing techniques, regular visits to the dentist) and the widespread use of fluoride (toothpaste, fluoride treatments, fluoride in water supply).

Use the handout "Treatment of Tooth Decay” as you discuss this with the students. When a cavity occurs, the dentist has to take care of the problem. The dentist has to remove the decay and restore the tooth with silver amalgam or a tooth-colored filling material. If the decay is not removed, it spreads into the pulp and causes an abscess. An abscess is an infection inside the tooth. A tooth with an abscess either has to have a root canal treatment or be removed.


Tooth loss, brush, floss, oral hygiene, tooth decay, dental caries, caries, classify, demineralization, fluoride, sealant, filling, root canal


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Activity Code: 
Unit Reference: 
Watch Your Mouth
Lesson Reference: 
Lesson 5: Pathology