What are Dental Caries?

Caries, commonly known as cavities or tooth decay are focal breakdown of teeth due to acids produced by bacteria in the mouth.

Understanding Dental Caries

There are three parts of a normal truth, the enamel, the dentine and the pulp. The enamel is highly mineralized tissue containing no cells. The dentine is cellular, lies under the enamel and can react to the bacterial activity in the oral cavity. The pulp tissue contains blood vessels and nerve endings. Once this layer is invaded the person starts complaining of a toothache.

The enamel which lacks cells cannot respond to any activity in the oral cavity. Once destroyed by the bacterial acids the enamel cannot regenerate. The bacteria in the mouth consume sugars and use them for their own energy. They generate lactic acid in the process. The acid gradually erodes the enamel and eventually reaches the Dentine. Once the Dentyne is also eroded the cavity encroachers upon the pulp.

How common are Dental Caries?

Dental caries are very common complaint especially among the old and elderly due to poor oral hygiene and use of dentures.

What are the causes and risk factors for Dental Caries?

Risk factors include:

  • Dentures
  • Bad oral hygiene
  • Excessive consumption of sweet foods
  • Improperly aligned teeth
  • Reduced salivary secretions
  • Smoking

The bacteria most commonly implicated in dental caries are Streptococcus mutans and Lactobacillus species.

What are the symptoms of Dental Caries?

Most people are not even aware of the existence of cavities. Medical advice is sought only after the cavity which is the pulp cavity and pain appears. Common signs and symptoms include:

  • Pain
  • Sensitivity to heat cold sweet and sour foods
  • Bad breath
  • Foul tastes

How is Dental Caries diagnosed?

A dental examination is generally sufficient to diagnose cavity. The dentist may order x-rays of teeth to identify the extent of damage, the involvement of pulp, or to plan appropriate treatment.

What is the treatment for Dental Caries?

Treatment includes filling of cavities or in case of involvement of pulp cavity, root canal treatment. If pain persists despite Conservative treatment dental extraction maybe planned.

A simple course of antibiotics and painkillers followed by filling of the defect is sufficient in most cases.

What are the complications with Dental Caries?

  • Infection of salivary glands
  • Thrombosis of the cavernous sinus is a life-threatening complication

How to prevent Dental Caries or Cavity?

  • Maintain good oral hygiene
  • Avoid sugary food
  • Brush twice a day. Brushing before bedtime is especially important.

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