Identification, Causes, Prevention And Treatment Option Of Dental Caries
What Is It?
Dental caries is the medical term for tooth decay or cavities. It is caused by specific types of bacteria. They produce acid that destroys the tooth's enamel and the layer under it, the dentin.
Many different types of bacteria normally live in the human mouth. They build up on the teeth in a sticky film called plaque. This plaque also contains saliva, bits of food and other natural substances. It forms most easily in certain places. These include:
Cracks, pits or grooves in the back teeth
Around dental fillings or bridgework
Near the gum line
Early caries may not have any symptoms. Later, when the decay has eaten through the enamel, the teeth may be sensitive to sweet, hot or cold foods or drinks.
One way you can prevent cavities is by reducing the amount of plaque and bacteria in your mouth. The best way to do this is by brushing and flossing daily. You also can use antibacterial mouth rinses to reduce the levels of bacteria that cause cavities.
You can reduce the amount of tooth-damaging acid in your mouth by eating sugary or starchy foods less often during the day. Your mouth will remain acidic for several hours after eating. Therefore, you are more likely to prevent caries if you avoid between-meal snacks.
Chewing gum that contains xylitol helps to decrease bacterial growth. The bacteria cannot use the xylitol as a food source, like sugar. Other products also can reduce the acid level in your mouth. Ask your dentist about them.
Caries is a process. In its early stages, tooth decay can be stopped. It can even be reversed. Fluorides and other prevention methods also help a tooth in early stages of decay to repair itself (remineralize). White spots are the last stage of early caries.
Once caries gets worse and there is a break in the enamel, only the dentist can repair the tooth. Then the standard 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.
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.