Also known as the dental cavity, is the destruction of the tooth’s hard tissues (enamel, dentin, cementum) caused by bacteria that produce acids. The risk factors that can lead to cavity are poor oral hygiene, food that contains a lot of sugar, dry mouth, diseases such as diabetes and more. Tooth decay is one of the most common problems in dentistry. A lot of people are still not aware of the importance of regular dental visits and good oral hygiene, so don’t take proper care of their teeth. That is why they suffer from decay.
The whole decaying process starts on the surface of the teeth. The bacteria located in the dental plaque have the ability to create whole formations that actually live there and feed on the remains of food in the mouth. If you haven’t brushed properly or flossed, these food remains, with the debris are the perfect food for all these bacteria. They are especially happy with sugars, which can be easily transformed into acids. The acids that bacteria releases are very damaging to the enamel. After a certain time, if the persistence of tartar and plaque continues, the chances are there will also be dental caries. The patient might not feel any symptoms during this time, and it is usually discovered by the dentist. From there the decay spreads to the dentin, that is also less calcified compared to enamel. In other words, this is the tissue where caries can spread faster. Also, the dentin is the substance that has a lot of neural endings and is very sensitive to irritations. That is why patients feel pain once the process has reached the dentin. If the decay is not treated on time, it can spread to the dental pulp. Once it’s reached the pulp the process is irreversible, and the dentist will have to devitalize the tooth.
As mentioned before, in the first phase, patients don’t usually experience symptoms. Once caries has reached to the dentin, those nerve endings become exposed and are very sensitive. Patients feel sharp pain, that is caused by irritants. The most common ones are cold drinks and foods and also the intake of sugar. They might also feel pain due to pressure, in other words, if they chew on the decayed teeth. It all depends on the depth and location of caries. The decay can have different appearances. Dentists notice visible holes in the teeth, with a different color. If the decay is fairly new, then it will have a light color such as cream to brownish. If it is a chronic one, it will be colored grey or black.
The treatment includes complete removal of the decayed parts of the tooth. Dentists do that with rotary instruments and create clean cavities. The most common material used for fillings these days is composite. It has the same color as teeth and it is the perfect aesthetic material, so the filled tooth will appear just like the surrounding ones.