Dental caries, also known as tooth decay or cavities, are among the most common and widespread persistent diseases today. It is a disease found in adults, children, and even older people. It is also one of the most preventable diseases.  

When you consume certain food and beverages, the bacteria on your teeth break them down. Resulting in the production of acids that have the ability to seriously damage the hard tissues of your tooth. This results in the formation of dental caries or cavities.

What Causes Dental Caries?

Typically, your dental caries can be spotted on two areas of the teeth. The occlusal caries are formed on the topmost part of your tooth. This is the area where food particles repeatedly come in direct contact with your teeth. On the other hand, interproximal caries are dental caries that form between your teeth. It is primarily these two locations where bacteria grow and pose a risk to your oral health. 

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You should clean and care for your teeth and surrounding areas properly. The harmful bacteria will begin to digest the sugars left over from your food in your mouth. It will slowly convert into acids as a waste product.

These acids are very strong enough to demineralize the enamel on the teeth and form tiny holes. This is the first stage of dental caries. As your enamel begins to break down, your tooth loses the ability to reinforce the phosphate and calcium structures of the teeth naturally through saliva properties. With time, acid slowly penetrates into your tooth and destroys it from the inside out.

Here’s how dental caries develops:

1 Plaque forms

As you know, dental plaque is a clear sticky film that coats your teeth. It develops when you eat food containing a lot of sugars and starches and do not clean your teeth well. 

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When the accumulated sugars and starches are not cleaned off your teeth, bacteria start to feed on them and form plaque. Plaque that stays and deposits on your teeth and slowly hardens under or above your gum line. It finally forms tartar or calculus. Tartar makes the plaque more difficult to remove and thus creates a shield for bacteria.

2 Plaque attacks

The acids in plaque start to remove minerals in your tooth’s hard, outer layer called the enamel. This tooth erosion causes tiny holes or openings in the tooth enamel. This is the first stage of cavities. 

Once these areas of enamel are worn away, the acid and bacteria can reach the next layer of your teeth, referred to as dentin. This layer is softer compared to your enamel and less resistant to acid. Dentin has tiny tubes that directly communicate with the nerve of the tooth, causing sensitivity.

3 Destruction continues

As your dental caries develop, the acid and bacteria continue their march through your teeth. It moves to the next inner tooth material or pulp. This pulp contains nerves and blood vessels. The pulp becomes swollen and irritated from the bacteria. Because there is no place for the swelling to expand inside of a tooth, the nerve becomes pressed, causing pain. Discomfort can even extend outside of the tooth root to the bone.

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Dental Caries Treatments

Professionally, your dentist will deal with dental caries in four main ways. Your dentist carries out these to fulfill the damage incurred from dental caries.

1 Dental Filling 

Dental fillings are the most common form of treatment for caries. A dental professional or dentist will drill into your affected area of the teeth and remove the decayed material inside the cavity. At the end he will pack this empty space with an appropriate dental filling material. 

You can get types of filling materials to fill your teeth. Depending on the area where caries have occurred. 

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Today composite resin is the most common filling material across the globe. Your dentist, mighting the developed world, has a great color palette which your dentists can use to repair caries damage to teeth. These teeth are visible when you smile. In the case of having back teeth, some dentists prefer using other dental filling materials which are stronger.

2 Crowns

Dental crowns are another option for dentists when treating dental caries. Your dentist will use this option when a large proportion of the tooth is destroyed by disease. If your tooth decay leads to the need for large fillings, then your tooth will be more prone to cracks. It will ultimately lead to breaking of your teeth. 

Your dentist would attempt to save the remaining tooth, repair it, and finally fit your tooth with a porcelain or alloy crown covering.

3 Root Canal

Another method of treatment your dentist might employ is the root canal. When your tooth decay progresses through the enamel and settles down in the center portion of the tooth, it could be dangerous. It might even advance further and damage your tooth nerves, which are in the root. 

When you have severe damage your dentist might opt for a root canal treatment. Your dental professional would remove the damaged or dead nerve together with the surrounding blood vessel tissue or pulp. Then he would fill in the area. At the end of the procedure your dentist would usually place a crown over the affected area.

4 Extraction

In some scenarios, your tooth may be damaged beyond repair. Your dentist might extract the tooth as there is risk of infection spreading to your jaw bone. 

In case of tooth extraction the removal of some teeth may affect the alignment of those left in your mouth. So your dentist might recommend that a bridge, partial denture, or implant be inserted in those missing areas.

Dental Caries Risk Factors

 Everyone who has teeth is at risk of getting dental caries. But the following factors can increase risk:

1 Tooth location 

Dental caries most often occur in your back teeth ie your molar teeth and premolars. This is because these back teeth have lots of pits, grooves, crannies, and multiple roots that can collect food particles. As a result, they are harder to clean compared to your smoother, easy-to-reach front teeth.

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2 Inadequate brushing

If you do not clean your teeth immediately after eating and drinking, plaque can start to form quickly and the first stages of decay can begin.

3 Certain foods and drinks

Foods that cling to your teeth for a long time are milk, ice cream, sugar, honey, soda, e, cookies, dry cereal, and chips. Such food items cause decay than foods that are easily washed away by your saliva.

4 Frequent sipping and snacking

When you frequently snack or sip sugary drinks, you give your mouth bacteria more fuel. Meaning more acids are produced that attack your teeth and wear them down. And sipping acidic drinks or other acidic drinks throughout the day helps create a continual acid bath over your teeth.

5 Dry mouth

A dry mouth is caused when you have a lack of saliva as it is very helpful and prevents tooth decay. The saliva washes away your food and plaque from your teeth. Minerals found in saliva also help counter the acid produced by bacteria. Certain conditions can increase your risk of dental caries by reducing saliva production. These could be certain medications or some medical conditions.

How to Prevent Dental Caries

Dental caries can have a bad effect on your teeth. If left unattended, your dental caries or cavities are largely preventable if you maintain a good oral hygiene regimen!. This might include brushing at least twice a day and flossing once a day.

In fact, recent studies show that brushing regularly and specifically using an electric toothbrush can help prevent tooth loss. It can also effectively remove the plaque bacteria that could lead to tooth decay. 

Today’s most electric brushes feature the latest in oral care technology that can effectively, yet gently, clean all mouth areas including tooth surfaces. The micro-vibrating bristles of electric toothbrushes remove plaque between teeth and along your gum line for a thorough clean.

You must also keep up with your regular dental checkups in order to identify pre-existing conditions. This could lead to serious issues down the road. The earlier your dentist can spot the signs of poor oral hygiene, such as a buildup of plaque, the better are your chances at preventing dental caries. Moreover, it would also help to reduce your gum problems.

A few recommendations your dentist might make include:

1 You should brush your teeth twice a day for at least two minutes using a fluoride rinse, paste, or gel. We can use toothpaste that includes fluoride to help reduce the production of acid. As you know, acid is very harmful for your teeth. Moreover, acid can slowly eat away the enamel of your teeth and damage your teeth in the long run.

2 Flossing regularly after brushing – especially if frequently eating or drinking sugary foods or drinks – is very essential. If you eat specific foods high in sugar it will provide a consistent supply of damaging acid. These acids will attack your tooth’s hard tissues. Hence, flossing once a day with regular products can be helpful in removing food particles from between your teeth. Especially the hard-to-reach areas of your teeth which you might be missing out on.