Dental Caries

Dental caries, commonly known as cavities or tooth decay, are areas of the tooth that have been damaged due to bacterial acid erosion.

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What are Dental Caries?

Dental caries, commonly known as cavities or tooth decay, are areas of the tooth that have been damaged due to bacterial acid erosion. They occur when harmful bacteria in the mouth produce acids that gradually dissolve the hard tissues of the tooth, including the enamel, dentin, and, in advanced cases, the pulp.

Symptoms of Dental Caries

Dental caries can manifest in many ways, and early-stage cavities may not cause noticeable symptoms. As the decay progresses, common symptoms may include tooth sensitivity, particularly to hot, cold, or sweet stimuli. Pain or discomfort while chewing or biting down can also occur, indicating the presence of deeper cavities that have reached the underlying dentin or pulp.

Visible signs of dental caries include the presence of visible holes or pits on the tooth surface. These cavities may appear as dark spots or discoloration, indicating the breakdown of the tooth structure. In some cases, the affected tooth may develop a rough or sticky texture due to the loss of mineralized enamel.

What is the most common cause of Dental Caries?

Tooth decay is the result of acids produced by specific bacteria when they breakdown the carbohydrates from the diet. The acids produce mineral breakdown and, if the saliva cannot neutralise it, it will lead to cavitation. Simple sugars are a primary energy source for these bacteria so a diet rich in sugars is a major risk factor. Tooth decay is also accelerated by inadequate oral hygiene as dental plaque will make it easier for the bacteria to stick to the teeth.

Frequent snacking or sipping on sugary and acidic beverages throughout the day are a major factor in dental caries. Each time we eat or drink, the bacteria in the mouth produce acids that attack the teeth. The more frequently we consume sugary or acidic substances, the longer the teeth are exposed to these harmful acids, increasing the risk of cavities.

Certain medical conditions or medications that reduce saliva flow, such as dry mouth or xerostomia, can also increase the risk of dental caries. Saliva plays a crucial role in neutralizing acids and remineralizing the teeth. Without sufficient saliva, the protective mechanisms of the oral cavity are compromised, making teeth more susceptible to decay.

How do you treat Dental Caries?

The treatment for dental caries focuses on removing the decayed portion of the tooth and restoring its structure. The dentist will begin by numbing the area with a local anaesthetic to ensure a comfortable experience. Using specialized instruments, the decayed portion of the tooth will be removed, leaving behind healthy tooth structure.

Once the decay is removed, the tooth will be restored using various dental materials. Tooth-coloured composite resins are commonly used for small to moderate-sized cavities. These materials are matched to the natural shade of the tooth, providing a seamless appearance. In cases where a sizeable portion of the tooth is affected, indirect restorations, such as ceramic onlays or crowns, may be recommended to strengthen and protect the remaining tooth structure.

Prevention plays a vital role in managing dental caries.

Dietary modifications are crucial in cavity prevention. Limiting the consumption of sugary and acidic foods and beverages, and opting for healthier choices, can significantly reduce the risk of dental caries. Additionally, using fluoridated dental products, such as toothpaste and mouthwash, and considering professional fluoride treatments can help strengthen the enamel and make it more resistant to acid attacks.

Good oral hygiene practices, such as brushing your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and flossing daily, help remove plaque and reduce the risk of cavities. Regular dental check-ups are essential for early detection of dental caries. Dentists can perform thorough examinations, take dental X-rays if necessary, and identify cavities in their initial stages when they are easier to treat.

In conclusion, dental caries is caused by bacterial acid erosion of the teeth. Poor oral hygiene, frequent consumption of sugary or acidic substances, and certain medical conditions increase the risk of cavities. Treatment involves removing the decayed tooth structure and restoring it with dental materials. Prevention through good oral hygiene practices, regular dental check-ups, and a healthy diet is crucial in maintaining cavity-free teeth.

Wimpole St Dental Clinic has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references. You can learn more about how we ensure our content is accurate and current by reading our editorial policy.

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