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What Is Dental Caries Or Tooth Decay?

Medikoe Health Expert

Medikoe Health Expert

  Koramangala, bengaluru, karnataka, india, Bengaluru     Feb 9, 2017

   9 min     



Dental caries, which is also known as tooth decay or cavities, is a prevalent worldwide persistent disease today. When we consume certain foods, the bacteria prevailing on our teeth breaks them down. This process of breaking produces acids that tend to damage the hard tissues of our teeth severely. 

Causes of Dental Caries

Have you ever thought of that which bacteria causes dental caries? The dental caries is caused by mutans streptococci, streptococcus sobrinus, and lactobacilli. The bacteria in the dental plaque, lying on the teeth, produce acid in the presence of fermentable carbohydrates. 

However, the bacteria that cause the disease are present in the dental plaque, but with lower concentrations. There is a need for a shift of balance in them to generate the infection, and this change may be driven by if someone has some frequent sugar intake or compromising in tooth brushing and flossing. 

Dental caries is formed through a complex interaction over time,  between acid-producing bacteria and fermentable carbohydrates, and many host factors, including teeth and saliva. The disease affects both the crowns and root canals of teeth.

Demineralization is the root cause of caries. Diffusion of calcium, phosphate, and carbonate out of the tooth results to cavitation. Caries in enamel firstly is seen as white spot lesions, which are small areas of subsurface demineralization. But then, it may be of several different colours, from yellow to black.

Types of Dental Caries

Dental caries is generally spotted on two specific areas of the teeth which are termed as dental caries zones: one is on the top part of the tooth surface, which is known as occlusal caries. Here, the food particles get direct contact with the teeth repeatedly, and the other is interproximal caries, caries which form between the teeth. These are the locations where bacteria fester and throw a risk to our oral health.

According to the American Dental Caries Classification System, there are four of the tooth surface sites where we can detect the decay can be observed. The dental caries types can be:

  1. Pit and fissure: It refers to the line of breakage or cracks of teeth such as the occlusal surface of maxillary incisors and canines.

  2. Approximal: It refers to the contiguity to the adjacent tooth contacting areas.

  1. Cervical and smooth surface: It may be around the cervical area or smooth enamel surface of the tooth adjacent to an edentulous space.

  1. Root: It refers to the root surface acute to the anatomic crown.

Dental Caries In Children

Dental caries or cavities can arise in early childhood as an aggressive tooth decay that affects the primary teeth of infants and toddlers. It can affect the enamel, cementum (the outermost layer of the root), and dentine (the tissue beneath both enamel and cementum).

Young children are vulnerable to cavities in the age of around six months, the stage where the first teeth start to appear. An early childhood caries can occur due to the reason of damaged tooth, missing tooth due to caries, or any preschool treatment for filling of the decayed tooths.

Symptoms of Dental Cavities Or Caries

Tooth care is an essential task for us to be healthy and hygienic. Taking its proper care means maintaining the overall wellness of our body. Dental decay or cavities are the most common problems that a person can have. 

The signs can occur due to eating sticky, sugary foods. Dental caries and diet go hand in hand.  Eating or drinking habits play a crucial role for better teeth and gums. 

The listed points are some of the most common causes of tooth infection:

  • Poor oral hygiene creates regular dental issues that may broaden the affected area into a more prominent disease.

  • Eating sticky foods like caramel, sugary items, raisins, candies cause the cavity more as the food particles get stuck to our teeth and could not be removed until the brushing is done.

  • Plaque formation is also one of the factors that lead to tooth and gum problems. It occurs when bacteria, acid and food particles all mix up in our mouth. The acid is so dangerous that it can cause holes in the enamel of our teeth.

  • Dry mouth, without the saliva, builds up the plaque more quickly as the saliva wash plaque and somehow controls the teeth to be decayed.

  • Some of the medicinal treatments can also cause tooth decay by stimulating acid contents from the stomach to the mouth. When someone has frequent vomiting, the acid flows back into the mouth and thus, the chances of a toothache infection increases.

Treatment for Dental Caries

Treating dental caries symptoms is essential as soon as possible before it grows into a dangerous disease. There are few antibiotics for dental caries and decay related problems which are most commonly used to heal the infections.

Penicillin and amoxicillin are among them, which is still the first choice to prevent such complications. Clindamycin and metronidazole are also treated as an alternative antibiotic for such bacterial medication.

There are usually four main ways to treat with the dental cavities professionally. The practitioners can cure the damaged tooth by using any of these methods, one or more, depending on the affected area of the decay.

1. Filling:

  •  It is the most common method of treating the decayed tooth. 

  • A dental professional drills into the infected area of the tooth and removes the decayed material inside the cavity. 

  • He then fills up the vacant space with any fillers. Composite resin is the most common used palate of colours which the dentist likes to use to fill up space. 

  • In the case of Back teeth, some professionals prefer to use the other different filling materials which are stronger for filling.

2. Extraction of teeth/tooth: 

  • There may be some cases where the infection to the tooth is severe and is beyond repair.  

  • There are chances of affecting the adjacent tooth or jaw bone, and the infected tooth is suggested to be extracted by the professionals.

  • The extraction may lead to the disturbance in the alignment of the leftover tooth in the mouth. It is thus recommended that a partial denture, bridging or implantation is done in these edentulous areas.

3. Alloying of crowns:

  • This method is carried out when the damaged area is more significant than usual and needs larger fillings to cover up the damage. In this case, the person may be targeted with more tooth cracks and breakings. 

  • The dentist does the salvage of the remaining tooth, repairs it, and ultimately fits the tooth with an alloy to the crown covering.

4. Treating the root canal:

  • The tooth decay starts from targeting the enamel, progressing through the centre of the tooth.

  • It may further traverse to the nerves in the root and damage them.

  • The dentist would remove the dead nerve with the covering of the tissues of the blood vessels (pulp) and fill the area by placing a crown.

5. Dental implant

  • A Dental implant is a surgical fixture that’s implanted into the jawbone for patients that have recently undergone tooth loss due to decay, injuries, or certain other tooth-related diseases. 

  • The function of the implant is to act like an artificial tooth root on which the tooth replacement is placed, and in the process making it seem like you never lost a tooth at all.

Home remedies for curing Dental Cavities or Caries

Dental caries prevention is not only bounded to the professional treatments, but it is also cured to some extent by following some homely remedies that are easy to use.

  • Avoiding sugary foods and drinks is a must step that need to be followed. It is considered the most crucial risk factor for caries.  The professional recommends less than 10% of the total calorie intake for a day.

  • As per the research, if we brush with fluoride toothpaste prevents cavities and remineralize enamel. Most of the studies show that the method play a vital role in reducing tooth decay in children or adolescents, but more research for adults needs to be incorporated.

  • The consumption of vitamin D helps in absorbing calcium and phosphate from the food we intake. There is a counter relationship between vitamin D and calcium contained foods. Dairy products like milk and yoghurt provide us with a high concentration of vitamin D. Exposure to sun also gives us vitamin D essential to our body.

  • Oil pulling is an ancient Ayurvedic technique for curing dental problems. It is also known as “Kavala” or “Gundusha”. 

The method is swishing a tablespoon of coconut oil in our mouth for 20 minutes. It must be done on an empty stomach. This technique ostensibly throws out the toxins from our body to improve our overall oral disinfection.

  • A clinical experiment showed that oil pulling with sesame oil helps in treating plaque, gingivitis, and bacteria in the mouth.

  • Extracts from the Chinese liquorice plant (Glycyrrhiza uralensis) controls the bacteria from acting towards the plaque formation and tooth decay. A new discovery has been made using liquorice plant into a liquorice lollipop to help in fighting with collapses. These lollipops are effective in dealing with S. mutans in the mouth and preventing damages to the tooth

  • Chewing sugar-free gum after having the meal helps in remineralizing enamel in our mouth. The gum contains xylitol that is responsible for stimulating the flow of saliva in our mouth. The content is also responsible for raising the ph value of plaque and reducing S. mutans bacteria to control the damage.

According to a research, Sugar- free gums contain casein phosphopeptide-amorphous calcium phosphate (CPP-ACP) compound and the studies have been shown to lower the levels of mutans bacteria, and it works way more than xylitol-containing gums.

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Tags:  Dental treatments,Dental, Tooth Decay, Dental Caries

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