Tooth Decay, also known as dental cavities is the microbial disease of the tooth caused due to acids made by bacteria. Although effective methods are known for the prevention and management of dental cavities still it is a major health problem affecting mankind. Tooth Decay or Cavities also known as Dental Caries are the most common dental diseases or dental problems in the world.
Dental Caries is a microbial infectious disease caused by the demineralization of inorganic and destruction of the organic substance of the tooth. Caries is the tooth decay called cavities caused by a breakdown of the tooth enamel. The breakdown is due to the result of bacteria on teeth and food that produces an acid that destroys tooth enamel and results in Tooth Decay.
Dental care is very important for all age groups including children, adolescents, young and older adults. Whenever you eat food rich in carbohydrate, sugary drinks the bacteria form a sticky film called plaque around the tooth surface. The stickiness of the plaque keeps this acid in contact with the teeth and if Dental care is not taken properly, it leads to enamel breakdown. Thus, resulting in cavities.
Causes of Dental Caries or Tooth Decay
As of now there is no universally accepted opinion of the causes of Dental caries. But the following causes had been seen playing a major role in Cavities formation.
ROLE OF CARBOHYDRATES –
The more the frequency of ingestion of carbohydrates more is the increase in chances of Dental caries or cavities. As well as more the sticky and solid food, rich in carbohydrates are consumed, more are the chances of attaching food with the tooth surface. With improper dental care more are the chances of incidence of Dental caries.
The food rich in fats, proteins, and salts doesn’t adhere much to the tooth surface thus the chances of caries is reduced.
The etiology of dental caries involves a connection between oral bacteria, local carbohydrate, and tooth surface that may be shown as –
Bacteria + Teeth + Sugars –> Organic Acids –> Dental Caries.
ROLE OF MICRO-ORGANISMS AND DENTAL PLAQUE –
Various studies have shown the role of microorganisms in the causes of Dental caries. The most common bacteria associated with caries are – Lactobacillus, Oral Actinomyces, Oral Streptococci. They are associated with the initiation of Dental Caries. Certain microorganisms cause the progression of caries.
Microorganisms are located in the form of biofilm adhering to a tooth surface called Dental Plaque. Streptococci are most commonly seen in Dental plaque associated with caries.
ROLE OF ACIDS –
Localization of microorganisms in the form of acids in Dental Plaque plays a major role in Dental caries. It occurs through the enzymatic breakdown of sugars and the acid formed is Lactic Acid.
Risk Factors Involved in Tooth Decay
Tooth Decay or Dental Caries involves the following Risk factors –
- Host encompasses – Tooth, Age, Habits, and Environment. Flora consists of microorganisms that come in contact with tooth as Dental Plaque. The substrate is Diet, which increases the incidence of Dental caries. For example, Solid and carbohydrate-rich food increases the incidence of caries. While Calcium, Vitamin A, Flouride rich food, and water decrease the incidence of Dental Caries.
- Decay most often occurs on Back teeth (molars and premolars ). Because of their morphology, they collect food particles, and when they are not cleaned properly like front teeth decay starts.
- Frequent snacking and sipping of carbohydrate-rich and sugary food in your mouth creates a highly acidic environment that attacks the tooth surface. Certain food and drinks such as Soda, Soft drinks, Fruit drinks, honey, ice cream, candies, chips, cookies are more likely to cause decay than food that is washed away by saliva.
Oral Health and Hygiene Risk
- Inadequate brushing and flossing after eating or drinking lead to plaque formation and initiation of decay.
- Fluoride, a naturally occurring mineral helps in the prevention of cavities and tooth decay. Fluoride is an important source of Dental care that is available in toothpaste, drinking water, mouth rinses.
- Dry mouth or xerostomia occurs due to lack of saliva and lack of saliva initiates tooth decay. Since the saliva helps in washing away bacteria from the tooth surface lack of saliva initiates tooth decay. Medical conditions, medications, radiation, and chemotherapy drugs may cause dry mouth.
- Dental fillings that are worn out develop rough edges. This leads to plaque build-up more easily and very difficult to remove.
- Heartburn or GERD causes stomach acid to flow in the mouth, thus wear away the tooth enamel and cause damage and initiation of decay. Your dentist may identify the cause and may refer you to a physician if heartburn is the cause of decay.
Symptoms of Dental Caries or Cavities
If the cavities are ignored and not treated, they get large and affect the deeper layer of the tooth surface. Proper Dental care is the best protection against cavities and tooth decay.
Signs and symptoms of Dental caries depend on a variety of factors that include extent and location too. During the initial stage of the cavity, there are no symptoms at all. As Tooth decay gets larger, it may cause various signs and symptoms.
- Pain in the tooth may be spontaneous or continuous. It may vary from dull to severe pain without any apparent cause.
- Tooth sensitivity that includes pain or feeling sensitivity while having hot, cold or sweet food.
- Mild to sharp pain while chewing food.
- Visible holes, small or large in your teeth depending upon the severity of caries.
- Staining on the tooth surface that may vary from brown, black to white in color.
- Pain especially while biting the food making it really difficult to chew the food properly.
- Tooth abscess if cavities are not treated on time.
- Swelling in gums or around the decayed tooth.
- Nutritional problems due to inadequate eating and drinking.
- Tooth loss if the cavity is not treated at all.
WHEN TO SEE A DENTIST
You may not interpret the initiation of caries formation on your own. It is very necessary to have regular visits to the Dentist to get Regular dental checkups and cleaning. This way you will be able to know the tooth decay from the start only. However, if you feel pain, toothache, or tooth sensitivity you much schedule your visit as soon as possible.
Best Prevention Methods of Dental Caries or Tooth Decay
Prevention of demineralization of the tooth
This can be done by increasing the resistance of tooth surface from caries. Can be done by the use of Topical and Systemic Fluoride.
Topical fluoride – Fluoride toothpaste, Fluoride mouth rinses, Fluoride varnishes used by the dentist.
Systemic Fluoride – Public water fluoridation up to 1ppm, Fluoride tablets if advised by dentist according to requirement.
- You should try to limit the consumption of carbohydrates and stick food as much as possible.
- Sucrose should be consumed during mealtime so that it doesn’t stick to the tooth surface.
- Caries inhibiting food should be added more to the diet that includes Fluoride, Calcium, Vitamins rather than high sucrose rich food.
- Sweeteners like sorbitol should replace sucrose.
- Limit the consumption of sugary drinks as much as possible.
Ideal Dental care therapy is to inculcate the habit of Brushing and Flossing twice a day especially at bedtime this prevents the accumulation of plaque on the tooth surface thus prevent the incidence of caries.
The use of chlorhexidine mouthwashes at least once a day.
Fluoridated water and vitamin C reduces the incidence of dental caries to a large extent.
Homecare Remedies for Cavities or Tooth Decay Problems
- Avoiding and limiting the intake of sticky, sugary food prevents the incidence of tooth decay.
- Limit frequent snacking and sipping sugary drinks.
- If you have any medical conditions like Dry mouth, heartburn consults to your dentist or physician as soon as possible.
- Clean your teeth properly that includes Brushing, Flossing, Mouthwash.
- You can use sugar-free chewing gums since they stimulate saliva flow, re-mineralizes enamel, prevent the formation of dental plaque and reduce the incidence of caries.
- Vitamin D plays an important role it can be found in milk, curd, and sunshine. Adequate intake of vitamin D is important to prevent cavities.
- Oil pulling an ancient technique is really helpful in cleaning the teeth by removing the accumulated bacteria around the tooth. Swishing oil like coconut oil for around 5- 10 minutes early in the morning removes toxins, bacteria, accumulated plaque as well as gum diseases.
Dental Caries or Tooth Decay Treatment
Regular dental check-ups and get the cavities treated at the first stage is important. Follow Dental care routine to prevent yourself from advanced complications like pain, swelling, sensitivity, and tooth loss.
Treatment at the Dentist Include the Following –
Normal Lesions – Normal lesions don’t require any treatment but require clinical examination by a regular visit to the dentist.
Pit and Fissure Sealants – Initiation of pits and fissures are sealed with sealants.
Topical Fluoride Application – Professional fluoride application contains more fluoride thus your dentist may prescribe you tablets, apply topical fluoride according to the requirement.
Dental Fillings – Dental fillings include removal of bacteria by cavity preparation and filling the cavity with cement, composite according to the tooth requirement. Dentists according to tooth morphology, decide the filling material, type of filling required. According to expenditure on different types of filling patient can make the decision.
Dental Crowns – In case of extensive decay Root canal treatment followed by dental crown is the ideal choice.
The Dentist Advises Root Canal Treatment – When the decay reaches the dentin or pulp and cannot be treated with simple fillings Root canal treatment.
Tooth Extraction – Severely decayed tooth is extracted.
Prevention is better than Cure. It is a well known proverb and it applies to your dental health and hygiene as well. Just by following simple ways or methods for oral hygiene, you can reduce the chances of dental caries or cavities. Brushing your teeth in the morning first thing and before sleeping in the night is really helpful in keeping your teeth strong and healthy.
Gargling after having any food is really important. It helps in making sure, no food gets stuck in your teeth and avoid any bacteria collection in your mouth. It keeps your breath also healthy. You can use floss for the teeth before going to bed if something is stuck badly in between the teeth. Also if something is paining, it is better to visit the dentist on time for immediate diagnosis and solutions. Take good care of your teeth and they will take good care of your food for life.
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