What Is “Dental Caries”?
Dental caries, also known as tooth decay, is a transmissible infectious disease that causes damage to your tooth structure. Dental caries or tooth decay occurs when decay-causing bacteria in your mouth and on your tooth surface turn sugar into acid and attack the tooth’s hard tissues. Dental caries needs treatment because it can put your oral health at risk.
If tooth decay advances, it can turn into more problematic dental issues like dental cavities and lead to tooth pain, discomfort, infection, tooth abscess, and even tooth loss in severe cases.
● Dental cavities result from untreated tooth decay and refer to tiny or big holes in the tooth structure.
● A tooth abscess is a painful dental condition resulting from untreated cavities. A tooth abscess refers to a pocket of pus that builds up inside the teeth or gums due to bacterial infection.
Dental caries is considered one of the most prevalent oral health conditions and happens to baby teeth or permanent teeth. Tooth decay in young children is called early childhood caries or baby bottle tooth decay. Lately, improved oral hygiene and drinking fluoridated water have caused a decline in the disease.
What Causes Dental Caries or Tooth Decay?
Tooth Decay Process
Dental plaque is a sticky colourless film of bacteria that grows on a tooth surface and under or above your gum line. Plaque forms on your teeth surface when bacteria in your mouth combine with starchy foods and sugary foods and drinks. Dental plaque contains bacteria and must be removed regularly by proper brushing. The bacteria present in plaque is very harmful to the structure and the health of the tooth.
Plaque bacteria use the sugars in sugary drinks and sweet foods and produce acids in the process. These acids can cause mineral loss, damage the tooth enamel, and lay the groundwork for tooth decay and cavities.
What Are the Risk Factors of Dental Caries or Tooth Decay?
Who’s at Risk of Tooth Decay?
While dental caries or tooth decay can affect anyone, some people have an increased risk. Generally, people who do not maintain good oral hygiene, do not remove harmful bacteria in their mouth, have lots of sugary and starchy foods and drinks have an increased risk of developing tooth decay.
Common risk factors of dental caries include:
High Sugar Consumption
● Eating many sweet foods and drinking sugary drinks such as soft drinks are highly damaging to your teeth and elevate your risk of developing tooth decay. The sugar in these foods will combine with plaque bacteria in your mouth and on the surfaces of your teeth and start to create acid to attack your teeth enamel. Acid production will lead to the loss of tooth substance and damage your tooth structure. Lost tooth structure will pave the way for tooth decay or dental caries.
Improper Oral Hygiene
● One of the most common risk factors for tooth decay is inadequate oral hygiene. The American Dental Association recommended that everyone brush their teeth twice daily with fluoride toothpaste for two minutes to prevent cavities. Removing plaque and food particles with proper brushing and flossing prevents the accumulation of harmful bacteria (decay-causing bacteria) in the mouth and improve your oral health.
● The saliva produced by our salivary glands will keep our mouth moist and fight the acid caused by the oral bacteria. The saliva production will help prevent tooth decay by getting rid of the plaque and food particles in the mouth.
● Taking certain medications, having some medical conditions, not drinking enough water, drinking lots of coffee, tea, chocolate, and cola, not drinking enough water can decrease saliva production and cause a dry mouth. Certain chemotherapy drugs can also interfere with saliva flow and give rise to a dry mouth.
The Location Of the Teeth
● Your back teeth (molars and premolars) are more susceptible to tooth decay. Back teeth are relatively harder to clean due to having lots of grooves and pits, making them better candidates for plaque buildup and a higher risk of developing dental caries.
Inadequate Access to Fluoride
● Fluoride can prevent tooth decay and enhance oral health by strengthening the tooth enamel. Fluoride may also reverse the early stages of tooth decay and prevent further decay.
● Being in frequent and consistent contact with fluoride and fluoridated drinking water can make your teeth stronger and resistant to acid produced by oral bacteria and lower your risks of dental caries.