Dental caries is also known as tooth decay. In other words, it is a destructive process that affects the hard dental tissues. It can happen to any surface of the teeth. Caries is a big dental problem that is caused by several different types of bacteria in the mouth.
The bacteria in the mouth feed from food leftovers, especially sugar. In that process they create acids that are very damaging to the hard dental tissues. The first step of destruction happens on the tooth’s enamel made by the acids that bacteria produce. The process slowly continues, disintegrating the enamel in depth and at one point reaches the dentin. If the decay is not removed in time, it can reach the dental pulp and cause more serious problems. The most common surfaces affected by caries are the approximal surfaces and the occlusal ones. The main reason behind this is that there are larger plaque deposits there and patients can’t always provide perfect oral hygiene. Other factors aside from bacteria are sugars. Eating a lot of food that contains sugar is the worst thing you can do to your teeth. As mentioned these bacteria use sugar to create acids that harm the enamel and dentin. So patients that eat a lot of sweets and don’t brush their teeth as often or improperly have a high-risk of dental caries. Other causes include low salivary flow, congenital teeth disorders, smoking, alcoholism and other diseases.
The signature symptoms are the appearance of pain, pits, cracks, and cavities, which are small and barely noticeable in the beginning, sensitivity to cold, hot, sweet foods and drinks. The symptoms depend on the depth of the dental decay. If it is an initial caries, that is located in the enamel, the chances are that it won’t show any significant symptoms. During this time, the dentist is the only one that can discover the cavity during a regular checkup. Once the caries reaches the dentin, that is when the symptoms appear. All of the nerve endings are located there, so that is why the patient starts feeling pain. That pain is usually very sharp and when the patient drinks or eats cold drinks and food. Foods that contain sugar can also trigger pain. You will see a cavity, that can be colored in either yellow, brownish to even black, depending on the size and the time. At a certain point there will be visible holes in the teeth. If the caries progresses it can affect the dental pulp. The pain will lead to difficulty in eating, bad oral hygiene at that part of the mouth, the caries can even affect surrounding teeth and compromise your hole oral health.
Caries has to be treated as soon as possible. Dentists use a drill to remove all the decayed tissue and form a clean dental cavity. That is when they will place a filling with a proper dental material to close the cavity. If the caries has affected the pulp, then the dentist has to perform a root canal procedure.