Characteristics of dental caries
Dental caries or tooth decay is characterized by dental cavities or holes that, if not treated properly, cause the destruction of the teeth.
Tooth decay is an infection of the tooth caused by bacteria or microbes in the mouth. Bacteria proliferate in food debris.
Before appearing cavities gum diseases may appear (gingivitis, periodontitis, bleeding gums, etc..) These are produced by bacterial plaque that forms at the base of the teeth.
Tooth decay is an infection of the tooth caused by bacteria or microbes in the mouth. They develop in the bacterial plaque that forms at the base of the teeth attacking the gums (tartar).
A complete oral hygiene, floss and toothbrush helps to remove food debris and prevents the growth of cariogenic bacteria. It also recommended a professional cleaning at least 1 time per year.
A drawing of two teeth: one withouth caries on the left and another one with caries on the right
Bacteria involved in caries
Major bacteria that cause cavities (cariogenic bacteria) are those of the species Streptococcus mutans.
How is dental caries produced?
In the mouth we have bacteria or different microbes. Caries is a proliferation of a type of microbes, called cariogenic bacteria (Streptococcus mutans) that proliferate when we eat too much sugar (juice, fruit, candy, etc..).
You should brush your teeth after every meal. If not done, the sugar residues that remain in the mouth fed cariogenic bacteria and harmful microbes there increase. Cariogenic bacteria decompose sugar to lactic acid. The acid lowers the pH of the mouth and attacks the tooth enamel (calcium loss occurs).
Toothdecay development: (1) healthy tooth; (2) Little dental hygiene causes tartar and plaque;
(3) Tartar inflames the gum and dental esmale; (4) If untreated, caries appears.
Evolution of caries
The acids in plaque damages the enamel covering the tooth, eroding and forming cavities (holes in the teeth). If untreated, these acids damage the fabric of the teeth to penetrate into different layers. When decay is very deep, it can reach the nerve of the tooth, causing pain and loss of the tooth.
Complications of caries
The major complication of caries occurs when it penetrates into the tooth. Bacteria grow in the interior of the root of the tooth causing infection, with accumulation of pus, which is very painful. This complication is known as dental abscess
Symptoms of dental caries
There are no symptoms in many cases during the first stages of tooth decay. The main possible symptoms of tooth decay are:
– Pain in the teeth
– Holes in the teeth
– Blackening of tooth enamel
– Complete destruction of the tooth.
Causes of tooth decay
– Type of saliva: There are people prone to cavities because their saliva has a low pH. People with dry mouth (xerostomia) or lack of saliva may be more sensitive to decay because of lack of protection of saliva. This happens especially in elderly people who take antihistamines (they decrease saliva production), people with Sjögren ‘s syndrome or after chemotherapy.
– Diet rich in sugars: A diet rich in foods with lots of sugar causes increased bacterial plaque causing caries, lowers the pH of the mouth and damages the enamel to cause cavities to reach. Especially sticky foods rich in sugars are the most harmful, because they stick to the surface of the teeth (candy, sweets, pastries, creams, ice cream, gum with sugar, etc..).
– Poor oral hygiene: Not brushing your teeth after eating, increases food particles left in the mouth and increase plaque.
– Hormones: The risk of gum and tooth disease increases during hormonal changes (puberty, pregnancy, menopause and when contraceptives are taken).
– Bulimia: Repeated vomiting alters the pH of the mouth and makes it more acidic. The acids destroy tooth enamel and make it more susceptible to attack by decay. This can also occur in pregnant women when there is vomiting.
How to prevent tooth decay
The following advices could be very useful in order to prevent dental caries:
– Go to the dentist to remove your dental plaque regularly.
– Brush and floss your teeth properly. Do these actions gently with suitable toothbrush and dental thread.
– Use appropriate diet: do not abuse of sugars. Do not eat between meals.
– Go to the dentist in case of toothache.
Diagnosis of dental caries
Improper treatment of dental caries is the main reason among children and young people of tooth loss.
You have to visit your dentist who will be able to diagnose what are the real causes of your toothache and how to treat it properly.
X rays could be necessary in order to obtain a proper diagnosis. Some patients may be required to attend surgery for tooth removal when necessary.
Treatment of caries
– Prevention: The teeth are beyond repair, so the best treatment for caries is prevention.It is recommended to brush your teeth at least 2 times a day with fluoride toothpaste, floss at least 1 time per day and perform professional dental cleaning at least 1 time per year.
– Filling or sealing the tooth: decay is plugged with a substitute material such as silver fillings, gold or porcelain.
– Crowns or dental caps: This is done when decay is very important and has largely decayed tooth. The decayed area is repaired and the crown placed on the tooth.
– Treatment of dental nerves: When decay has reached the inside of the tooth root or nerve. The inside of the tooth (pulp and nerve) is removed and filled.
The natural treatment of dental caries involves using a series of natural remedies that can help to prevent it or reduce its symptoms.
More information about dental caries natural treatment.
– Related subject: Tooth pain in children