Tooth Decay clinically referred as Dental Caries or simply cavities is the 2nd most common chronic disease/disorder which affects a large population worldwide, common cold being the most common one.
Dental Caries is the demineralization of tooth enamel by acids released by pathogenic bacteria.
- Tooth Decay does not occur overnight but develops mainly due to poor oral hygiene over a long period of time.
- Poor oral hygiene first leads to the formation of plaque and tartar which are inhabited by caries forming bacteria.
- Acid releasing Bacteria (Streptococci and lactobacilli) are the pathological agents of tooth decay which demineralise the teeth by the acids released.
- Caries is common in individuals with excess intake of starch and sugars, consuming excessively or sipping for a long time on soda and fruit beverages, in-between eating habits and poor brushing habits.
Generally, there are no prominent symptoms till Dental Caries has progressed extensively.
The earliest sign may be the appearance of a white chalky spot on tooth surface which indicates the progression of dissolution of tooth enamel (outer layer).
Further dissolution of the tooth structure leads to this white spot turning brown and eventually forms the cavity.
The affected tooth area undergoes a color change and become soft.
When the decay has progressed to the nerves, it can cause immense pain and sensitivity. The tooth pains upon consumption of hot, cold or sweet foods/drinks.
The only way to prevent tooth decay is by following the 10 Commandments for healthy teeth and gums.
You don’t have to try anything fancy to maintain a good oral hygiene. Just sticking to the basics would do.
Brushing, Flossing and Regular Dental check ups
When there is a risk factor associated with a patient or the patient would like to have preventive measures against caries, the dentist can use
–Topical fluoride: Fluoride in the form of Stannous Fluoride is applied on the tooth surface which prevents caries.
–Fissure Sealants(Dental Sealants): These are applied on surface of molars which prevents Plaque formation.
It is very important to identify the cause of tooth decay which will help you in preventing future occurrences.
Fluoride Treatment: If Caries is detected in its early stages, fluoride therapy is a viable option.
Fillings: Lost tooth structure cannot be regained but can be replaced by artificial substance (Restorative material)
In this, the decayed tooth structure is removed and is filled up with a restorative material such as gold, composite resin or porcelain. Read more about tooth fillings.
Crown: If the damage is extensive, crowns are used which cover (as a jacket layer) and preserve the remaining tooth structure. Fillings can’t be used as large fillings are weaker.
Root Canal Treatment(RCT): If there is nervous damage to the tooth due to caries reaching the pulp chamber, RCT is suggested which involves the removal of the Pulp and the decayed part and its filling it with inert material(Gutta Percha) and filling material.