Dental caries, also known as tooth decay or a cavity, is an infectious, communicable disease causing destruction of teeth by acid-forming bacteria found in dental plaque. If left untreated, the disease can lead to pain, tooth loss, and severe infection. Today, caries remains one of the most common diseases throughout the world.
There are two important factors to be understood about carries. The first and most important thing is to realize that the development of dental caries is a dynamic process and not a static problem as some people often think. Secondly, before a cavity is formed in a tooth, the caries infection can actually be reversed. These two factors lead to important insights for an individual while understanding dental caries. The first and easy step is to follow the well-known principle of “prevention is better than cure” by eliminating and/or reducing factors leading to dental carries.
The interaction between diet and tooth has a major role in relation to caries as our food habits have changed. Higher frequent consumption of sugar-containing food or taking snacks in-between meals usually increases the caries rate. Frequent snacking in between meals increases the time duration for which plaque ph remains below the critical ph (5.2 to 5.5), thereby increasing demineralization attacks on the teeth. A diet containing raw unrefined foods has a great deal of roughage, which helps keep teeth clean of adherent debris and to stimulate greater salivary secretion.
Before a cavity is formed in the tooth, the caries infection can be actually reversed. Dental caries is typically first observed as a white spot lesion. If the tooth surface remains intact and non-cavitated, then remineralisation of the enamel is possible by following meticulous oral hygiene and repeated fluoride applications. As a result, counselling regarding the importance of these preventive /therapeutic procedures is very important. Pit and fissure sealants and fluoride containing restorative materials help in inhibition of caries progression.
If not treated early, an infected tooth, tooth decay, a cracked tooth, or a deep cavity disease can cause injury to the dental pulp. When this situation is beyond repair, pulp dies off and bacteria begin to multiply and together with decayed debris, results in an infected or abscessed tooth. Even if the person does not experience any pain, certain by-products of a diseased pulp can injure the bone that anchors the tooth in the jaw. Without proper and timely endodontic treatment, tooth will eventually have to be removed.
Dr. Rajeswari [BDS, MDS] is a Senior Resident of Conservative Dentistry at Royal Bahrain Hospital. Call 17246800 for your appointment and visit www.royalbahrainhospital.com for more information.