Dental caries or tooth decay causes gradual softening of enamel and dentine. It begins when bacteria acting on sugars produce acids that softens or demineralizes the enamel. Masses of bacterial cells together with food particles stick to the teeth to form dental plaque.
Saliva cannot reach the tooth surface to neutralize the acid as plaque covers the teeth. Brushing the teeth after eating removes the plaque before the bacteria produce acids. If untreated, microorganisms may invade the pulp, causing inflammation and infection.