One of the most common pandemic diseases that affect mankind after the common cold is dental caries, also known by various other names such as
tooth decay, dental cavity, dental decay etc. A dental cavity occurs due to the demineralization of tooth structure by acids released by pathogenic bacteria.
Tooth Decay Causes
The main cause for the formation of tooth cavities is poor oral hygiene maintenance with time, which leads to the formation of plaque and tartar.
Plaque and tartar contain caries forming bacteria such as streptococci and lactobacilli which are the main pathological agents of tooth decay.
These bacteria release acid thus causing demineralization of the tooth structure and forming a tooth cavity.
Intake of excess starch and sugary foods in between meal times predisposes to dental caries.
Dental Caries Symptoms
- Initial signs may be white chalky spots on the surface of the tooth indicating dissolution of the enamel of the tooth.
- The white chalky spots turn brown and become dental cavities as further demineralization takes place.
- The affected area may have a soft base and when deep and involving the pulp tissue, the individual experiences pain.
- The pain may exacerbate while taking hot/cold/sweet foods.
Dental Decay Prevention
- Brushing one’s teeth twice a day using the correct brushing technique and fluoridated toothpaste prevents major dental decay and other problems.
- The use of dental floss in areas inaccessible to the tooth brush such as the interproximal areas of teeth is necessary.
- Plaque formation can be inhibited by the use of antiseptic mouthwashes after brushing, though side effects are stated with long term use.
- A balanced diet is advisable; sugary foods and drinks in between mealtimes should be avoided. The oral pH is greatest after meals and during frequent snacks the pH is not returned to normal. Since bacterial action is greatest at acidic pH, carious activity also increases.
- Drinks containing citric acid and phosphoric acid such as lemonade and cola are best avoided as they tend to create an acidic environment. If consumed, rinsing the mouth after the drink is necessary.
- Regular visits to the dentist at least every 6months is a must do, since it’s better to diagnose and treat early carious lesions that is not noticed by the patient.
- In high risk individuals, topical fluoridation or pit and fissure application would help in the prevention of caries.
Dental Cavities Treatment
- Early carious lesions could be remineralised via fluoride therapy.
- If in case of large teeth cavities, fillings should be obtained. Various filling materials such as amalgam, gold or tooth coloured materials are available.
- Extensive loss of tooth structure would require a crown or cap like structure which provides support and preserves the remaining tooth substance.
- Deep cavities that involve the pulp necessitate root canal treatment/RCT, where the pulp is removed and replaced by an artificial inert material.