Dental Cavity

Dental Cavity

Tooth decay, also known as cavities or caries, is the breakdown of teeth due to acids produced by bacteria. The cavities may be a number of different colours from yellow to black. Symptoms may include pain and difficulty with eating. Complications may include inflammation of the tissue around the tooth, tooth loss and infection or abscess formation.

The cause of cavities is acid from bacteria dissolving the hard tissues of the teeth (enamel, dentin and cementum). The acid is produced by the bacteria when they break down food debris or sugar on the tooth surface. Simple sugars in food are these bacteria’s primary energy source and thus a diet high in simple sugar is a risk factor. If mineral breakdown is greater than build up from sources such as saliva, caries results. Risk factors include conditions that result in less saliva such as: diabetes mellitus, Sjögren syndrome and some medications. Medications that decrease saliva production include antihistamines and antidepressants. Dental caries are also associated with poverty, poor cleaning of the mouth, and receding gums resulting in exposure of the roots of the teeth.

Prevention of dental caries includes regular cleaning of the teeth, a diet low in sugar, and small amounts of fluoride. Brushing one’s teeth twice per day and flossing between the teeth once a day is recommended. Fluoride may be acquired from water, salt or toothpaste among other sources. Treating a mother’s dental caries may decrease the risk in her children by decreasing the number of certain bacteria she may spread to them. Screening can result in earlier detection. Depending on the extent of destruction, various treatments can be used to restore the tooth to proper function or the tooth may be removed. There is no known method to grow back large amounts of tooth. The availability of treatment is often poor in the developing world.

The World Health Organization estimates that nearly all adults have dental caries at some point in time. In baby teeth it affects about 620 million people or 9% of the population. They have become more common in both children and adults in recent years. The disease is most common in the developed world due to greater simple sugar consumption and less common in the developing world. Caries is Latin for “rottenness”.

Four things are required for caries to form: a tooth surface (enamel or dentin), caries-causing bacteria, fermentable carbohydrates (such as sucrose), and time. This involves adherence of food to the teeth and acid creation by the bacteria that makes up the dental plaque. Dental caries can also cause bad breath and foul tastes. In highly progressed cases, an infection can spread from the tooth to the surrounding soft tissues.

Primary diagnosis involves inspection of all visible tooth surfaces using a good light source, dental mirror and explorer. Dental radiographs (X-rays) may show dental caries before it is otherwise visible, in particular caries between the teeth. Large areas of dental caries are often apparent to the naked eye, but smaller lesions can be difficult to identify. Visual and tactile inspection along with radiographs are employed frequently among dentists, in particular to diagnose pit and fissure caries. Early, uncavitated caries is often diagnosed by blowing air across the suspect surface, which removes moisture and changes the optical properties of the unmineralized enamel.

Early childhood caries

Early childhood caries (ECC), also known as “baby bottle caries,” “baby bottle tooth decay” or “bottle rot,” is a pattern of decay found in young children with their deciduous (baby) teeth. This must include the presence of at least one carious lesion on a primary tooth in a child under the age of 6 years. The teeth most likely affected are the maxillary anterior teeth, but all teeth can be affected. The name for this type of caries comes from the fact that the decay usually is a result of allowing children to fall asleep with sweetened liquids in their bottles or feeding children sweetened liquids multiple times during the day.

Another pattern of decay is “rampant caries”, which signifies advanced or severe decay on multiple surfaces of many teeth. Rampant caries may be seen in individuals with xerostomia, poor oral hygiene, stimulant use (due to drug-induced dry mouth), and/or large sugar intake. If rampant caries is a result of previous radiation to the head and neck, it may be described as radiation-induced caries. Problems can also be caused by the self-destruction of roots and whole tooth resorption when new teeth erupt or later from unknown causes.

Children at 6–12 months are at increased risk of developing dental caries. For other children aged 12–18 months, dental caries develop on primary teeth and approximately twice yearly for permanent teeth.

A range of studies have reported that there is a correlation between caries in primary teeth and caries in permanent teeth.

The primary approach to dental hygiene care consists of tooth-brushing and flossing. The purpose of oral hygiene is to remove and prevent the formation of plaque or dental biofilm

People who eat more free sugars get more cavities, with cavities increasing exponentially with increasing sugar intake. Populations with less sugar intake have fewer cavities.

The use of dental sealants is a means of prevention. A sealant is a thin plastic-like coating applied to the chewing surfaces of the molars to prevent food from being trapped inside pits and fissures. This deprives resident plaque bacteria of carbohydrate, preventing the formation of pit and fissure caries. Sealants are usually applied on the teeth of children, as soon as the teeth erupt but adults are receiving them if not previously performed. Sealants can wear out and fail to prevent access of food and plaque bacteria inside pits and fissures and need to be replaced so they must be checked regularly by dental professionals. Dental sealants have been shown to be more effective at preventing occlusal decay when compared to fluoride varnish applications.

Frequently Asked Questions

Tooth decay are formed from acidic residues from the debris of the food you eat. This is because bacteria in your mouth turn food debris into acids, which attack your teeth. Hence the importance of brushing your teeth after every meal.

The most obvious cause is poor oral hygiene. Not brushing your teeth frequently enough or not effectively, or not flossing, all of this allows acids to attack your teeth. The consumption of sugary foods is also often involved. Then, there are factors that you cannot control that can influence your propensity to have cavities: inheritance, thickness of tooth enamel, having a dry mouth, acid reflux. If you know you are at greater risk, your oral hygiene is all the more important.

Cavities that are detected quickly, and therefore have not had time to reach the pulp of the tooth, are easy to treat with a filling. The dentist then comes to remove the decay and clean the tooth thoroughly before filling the hole that has formed in the tooth to stop its progression.
Otherwise, it will be necessary to resort to root canal treatment and placement of crown to preserve the tooth.
In more extreme cases where the tooth is too damaged, it may be necessary to extract the tooth, which will be replaced by an implant or a bridge.

If you have tooth decay that goes untreated, your tooth will decay more and more over time. Here are the stages it will go through:
The first part of the tooth that will be damaged will be the enamel, since this is what covers the tooth. A hole will then form when the enamel is passed through. The next stage is damage to the pulp of the tooth, which often leads to a very painful abscess. If left untreated at this stage, the pulp may become necrotic. The bacteria then migrate to the tip of the tooth and attack neighbouring tissues, this is called a periapical infection. This is why it is important to visit your dentist regularly. Detecting and repairing cavities as quickly as possible will avoid many problems.

The good news is that tooth decay can be prevented most of the time by having good oral hygiene. Brushing teeth, flossing, fluoride, diet and visits to the dentist. Taking care of your oral hygiene pays off for your health!

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Dental Cavity