Wednesday, August 3, 2011


Dental caries commonly known as tooth decay or cavity is a disease caused by the bacteria where they change the carbohydrate like sugar in the food left on the tooth surface into acid that demineralises the hard tooth structure (enamel and dentin). It is still one of the most common diseases in the world today.

Dental caries will not occur if the oral cavity is free of bacteria. These bacteria are organized into a material known as dental plaque which forms thin yellowish film on the tooth surface. These plaque bacteria covert the sugars and carbohydrates into acids that dissolve the minerals on the tooth surface leading to tooth cavity.

Dental caries is not painful until it reaches the nerve or root of the tooth. The earliest sign of caries is chalky white spots on the tooth surface indicating demineralization of the enamel. As the lesion continues to progress it turns to brown and will eventually form a cavity. Before the cavity forms, the process is reversible but once the cavity is formed, the lost tooth structure cannot be regenerated.

Once the decay passes through enamel and enters dentin, the dentinal tubules have passages to the nerve of the tooth, when it reaches the nerve it causes tooth pain. In highly progressed cases, the infection may spread to the soft tissues surrounding the tooth.

How to reduce the risk of dental caries:

Studies revealed that it is not what one eats but how often carbohydrate is ingested is the significant dietary factor causing dental caries. It is advisable to avoid frequent snacking.

Teeth should be cleaned thoroughly at least twice a day using a fluoride tooth paste. Brushing helps remove the plaque on the tooth surface and flossing helps remove the plaque in between the teeth.

Visit your dentist regularly for routine cleaning and examination.

Treatment for dental caries:

At the early stages, fluoride treatment may help restore your tooth enamel by using fluoridated tooth paste and mouth rinses.

Once the damage becomes permanent, when the decay progresses beyond enamel the decayed part of the tooth is drilled away and is filled with restorative materials.

When the decay reaches the inner part of the tooth (pulp), it reaches the nerve and cause pain. It is treated by doing a root canal. In this procedure, the tooth pulp is removed and replaced with a filling material.

Some teeth are severely damaged that they need to be extracted. In such cases, the extracted tooth leaves a gap that causes the adjacent tooth to shift to the gap. To avoid this, the missing tooth should be replaced with a bridge or an implant.

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