Who says you can’t win over dental caries? There are certain measures you can take to defeat those tiny microbes in your mouth from leaving a black deep hole on your teeth. Dental caries is also known as dental cavities are caused by tooth decay on the teeth.
What Causes Dental Caries?
Typically, dental caries can be spotted on two specific areas of the teeth: occlusal caries, which form on the topmost part of the tooth where food particles repeatedly come in direct contact with the teeth, and interproximal caries, which are dental caries that form between the teeth. It’s in these two locations where bacteria fester and pose a risk to your oral hygiene. If the teeth and surrounding areas are not cared for properly, the bacteria will begin to digest the sugars leftover from food in your mouth and convert it into acids as a waste product. These acids are strong enough to demineralize the enamel on your teeth and form tiny holes—the first stage of dental caries. As the enamel begins to break down, the tooth loses the ability to reinforce the calcium and phosphate structures of the teeth naturally through saliva properties and, in time, acid penetrates into the tooth and destroys it from the inside out.
Symptoms of Dental Caries
Most people are susceptible to dental caries, especially those of us who consume foods high in sugars or carbohydrates. Here are the common signs to look for if a cavity begins to form:
- Weakened enamel
- Increased sensitivity
- Small holes on the surface of the tooth
- Discoloration around a specific spot
- Pits in the affected tooth
- Persistent toothache
As dental caries take shape, enamel demineralizes and the tooth loses its natural ability to strengthen and protect the calcium and phosphate structure. The acid then comes into contact with the affected tooth, penetrating it and destroying it from the inside out.
Dental Caries Treatments
Professionally, there are four main ways to deal with dental caries. These treatments carried out by a dental professional can help treat damage incurred from dental caries.
- Fillings: Fillings are the most common form of treatment for the disease. Dental professional drills into the affected area(s) of the teeth, remove the decayed material inside the prepared cavity, and packs this empty space with an appropriate dental filling material. There are different types of filling materials that can be used, depending on the area where caries have occurred. Composite resin, the most common filling material in the developed world, has a great pallet of color which dentists can use to repair caries damage to teeth that are visible when you smile. In the case of back teeth, some dentists prefer using other dental filling materials which are stronger.
- Crowns: Crowns are another option for dental professionals when treating dental caries, and are only used when a large proportion of the tooth is destroyed by the disease. When tooth decay leads to the need for large fillings, the tooth becomes more prone to cracks and ultimately breaking. The dentist would attempt to salvage the remaining tooth, repair it, and finally fit the tooth with an alloy or porcelain crown covering.
- Root Canal: Another method of treatment, a dental professional may employ is called a root canal. As tooth decay progresses through the enamel and settles in the center of the tooth, it may even advance further and damage the nerves, which are in the root. A dental professional would remove the damaged or dead nerve with the surrounding blood vessel tissue (pulp) and fill the area. The procedure usually ends with the dentist placing a crown over the affected area.
- Extraction: In some cases, the tooth may be damaged beyond repair and must be extracted if there is the risk of infection spreading to the jaw bone. The removal of some teeth may affect the alignment of those left in the mouth, so it is recommended that a partial denture, bridge, or implant be inserted in those edentulous areas.
Preventing Dental Caries
Though dental caries can lead to severe damage and sometimes tooth loss, they are highly preventable. Following a good oral care routine is often your best bet in ensuring cavities don’t take root:
- Brush twice daily to remove tartar and plaque buildup
- Use a medium bristled brush.
- Floss at least once a day to get rid of any buildup between teeth and along the gum line
- Incorporate a rinse into your daily regimen to better remove any leftover particles
- Use fluoride products to reduce acid production
- Be sure to visit your dental professional at least twice a year for professional cleanings and checkups
With proper oral care and dental checkups, you’ll stay a step ahead of dental caries for healthier teeth and gums.