Tooth Decay also called Dental Cavities or Dental Caries – Dental Care

Overview of Dental Cavities or Dental Caries

Tooth Structure
Dental Cavity

Dental cavities are holes or structural damage in the teeth.  Tooth Decay or Dental Cavities or Dental Caries is an infection, typically bacterial in origin that causes demineralization of the hard tissues (enamel, dentin and cementum) and destruction of the organic matter of the tooth, usually by production of acid by hydrolysis of the food debris accumulated on the tooth surface. If left untreated, the disease can lead to pain, tooth loss and infection. in the beginning, it may become visible as a small chalky area (smooth surface caries), which may in due course of time  develop into a large cavitation. Sometimes caries or cavities may be directly visible. However, other methods of detection such as radiography are used for less visible areas of teeth and to judge the extent of destruction.

Causes of Dental Cavities or Dental Caries

Tooth Decay

Four main decisive factors required for caries or cavity formation are as follows:-

  • A tooth surface (enamel or dentin);
  • Caries-causing bacteria;
  • Fermentable carbohydrates (such as sucrose); and
  • Time

Different individuals will be vulnerable to different degrees depending on the shape of their teeth, oral hygiene habits, and the buffering capacity of their saliva. All caries occurs from acid demineralization that exceeds saliva and fluoride remineralization, and almost all-acid demineralization occurs where food (containing carbohydrate like sugar) is left on teeth. Though most trapped food is left between teeth, over 80% of cavities occur inside pits and fissures on chewing surfaces where brushing, fluoride, and saliva cannot reach to remineralize the tooth

Signs and Symptoms of Dental Cavities or Dental Caries

Amalgam Dental Filling
Composite Dental Filling

The typical treatment for a cavity is to fill the tooth. If a drill is used, the dentist will numb the area. If a laser is used, a numbing shot is not usually required. The decayed material in the cavity is removed and the cavity is filled. Many fillings are made of dental amalgamor composite resin. Amalgam is a silver-gray material made from silver, mercury, copper or other metals. Composite resin offers a better appearance because it is tooth-colored. Newer resins are very durable. Amalgams are used in molars and premolars because the metal is not seen in the back of the mouth. Composite and ceramic materials are used for all teeth.

  • Crowns. If a cavity is large, the remaining tooth may not be able to support enough filling material to repair it. In this case, the dentist will remove the decay and cover the tooth with a ceramic inlay, onlay or artificial crown. These may be made in the office or in a lab.
  • Root canals. The part of the tooth you can see remains relatively intact, but there is decay in the pulp inside the tooth. In this case, the tooth will need root canal treatment. A general dentist or an endodontist will be able to remove the tooth’s pulp and replace it with an inert material. In most cases, the tooth will need a crown.

Prevention of Dental Cavities or Dental Caries

Dental caries
Dental caries (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Following preventive measures can help you to avoid Tooth Decay:-

  • Brush your teeth twice a day preferably with fluoride toothpaste.
  • It is better to clean between your teeth daily with floss or interdental cleaner.
  • Eat balanced meals and also limit sweets and snacks.
  • Visit your dentist regularly for dental check up.
  • Use of fluoride supplements that strengthens your teeth
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