Dental Caries - Cavities

Dental caries is a condition known as cavity or tooth decay caused by bacterial processes. They damage the dentin, enamel, and cementum, i.e. the hard structure of the tooth. Bacteria break down the tissues progressively, producing holes and cavities in the teeth. Caries is generally caused by two groups of bacteria, Lactobacillus and Streptococcus mutans. Baby bottle tooth decay and dental plaque can also cause the development of dental caries. If the cavities are left untreated, they can result in pain, various infections, and tooth loss. In severe cases, they can lead to death.

In addition, research has found out that caries may develop as a complication of other medical conditions. These include tooth abrasion, cyclic vomiting syndrome, Sjorgen’s Syndrome, LADD syndrome, and others. Some conditions may be the underlying cause for the occurrence of dental caries. A variety of conditions have been associated with caries among which, anorexia nevrosa, crystal med addiction, renal rickets, and Juvenile Paget disease. Selenium poisoning is also associated with the development of caries.

There are also risk factors that do not directly lead to caries’ formation but are associated with it. The use of tobacco and consumption of foods high in sugar are among them. The absence of one or more factors is not a guarantee that caries will not occur.

More specifically, tooth decay is caused by bacteria that produce acids. Damage is caused if fructose, sucrose, or glucose is present. The teeth’s mineral content reacts to the increased acidity, and demineralization takes places faster than re-mineralization. The tooth’s surface loses mineral content which results in decay.

The extent of destruction determines the available treatment options. The tooth’s aesthetics, function, and form can be restored, but no treatment method can help regenerate the tooth structure completely. One option has been associated with stem cell-related research.

Two types of dental caries can be differentiated by location. The first type is found in fissures and pits while the second type occurs on smooth surfaces. Fissures and pits represent anatomic landmarks, with the enamel folding inward. Fissures form with the development of grooves where the enamel is not fused well. In addition, three types of dental caries develop on the smooth surfaces. These are proximal caries, root caries, and caries that develop on any other smooth surface. The proximal caries forms in areas between adjacent teeth. Root caries develops on the root surfaces. The first type or proximal caries is not easy to detect using a dental explorer. The caries develops toward the roots and just beneath the contact point between adjacent teeth. Root caries occurs on exposed roots where gingival recession has taken place. Root caries will not typically develop on healthy gingiva because bacterial plaque cannot reach the root surface.

The symptoms of dental caries include foul taste, bad breath, tooth pain, chills, and fever. Other symptoms are trismus, whereby the sufferer is unable to open his jaws, abscess, and cervical adenopathy.

Prevention is very important while vitamin D and fluoride may be used to help treat caries. In babies, prevention involves wiping the gum ridges with the help of a soft cloth or tooth brushing after feeding or nursing. These preventive measures are important as they help remove the sugars contained in milk. The baby’s teeth are damaged if it is lying down and sucking on a bottle. This can cause difficulty eating and tooth pain. In adults, oral hygiene, regular tooth brushing, flossing, and dental checkups as well as sticking to a healthy diet are important in preventing dental caries.


The information provided in this article does not constitute medical advice and should not be used for diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. If you have a health problem you should consult a licensed physician.

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