Tooth decay, cavities, or caries are caused by a combination of factors, including bacteria in your mouth, frequent snacking, sipping sugary drinks, and not cleaning your teeth well. The early manifestation of the caries process is a small patch of demineralized (softened) enamel at the tooth surface, often hidden from sight in the fissures (grooves) of teeth or in between the teeth. The destruction spreads into the softer, sensitive part of the tooth beneath the enamel. The weakened enamel then collapses to form a cavity and the tooth is progressively destroyed. Caries can also attack the roots of teeth, should they become exposed by gum recession. Complications may include inflammation of the tissue around the tooth, tooth loss, and infection or abscess formation.