dental care

Dental Caries
Fighting Your Teeth’s Number 1 Enemy

Dental caries is the term used to medically refer to the dental problem characterized by cavities and tooth decay. The main cause of caries is when the tooth enamel covering the tooth erodes due to bacteria.

Our mouth has a lot of nooks and crooks where bacteria can thrive. Bacteria in the mouth build up in the form of plaque, a sticky film that covers the tooth surface or inches its way into the cracks and grooves in the teeth and between teeth.

The gum line is also vulnerable to plaque, which is why dental caries can affect not just the teeth but also cause problems with the gum and the roots and bones beneath the teeth.

One of the culprits behind dental caries is sugary food. Due to the plaque, any sugar and carbohydrates in food that accumulate in the mouth are converted into acids, and these acids attack the minerals of the tooth, causing it to weaken and erode.

The erosion causes pits and cracks to form and these eventually grow larger. As the cracks or pits become further exposed to food debris, tooth decay sets in. And when the decay breaks through the protective enamel of the teeth, the worse the damage gets as the dental pulp and the roots of the tooth become affected.

Dental caries are often accompanied by toothache, which could be caused by inflammation of the gums, sensitivity due to exposure of the tooth root.

Here are some things you should know about dealing with dental cavities so you know how to save your teeth from them.

Caries 101: Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment, and Prevention

  A few factors to be considered include:

  • How to Detect Dental Caries
  • What Should You Do about Tooth Decay?
  • Determining Treatment for Tooth Decay
  • Preventing Cavities

1. How to Detect Dental Caries

dental cariesCavities and tooth decay are difficult to detect at first because the smallest crack cannot be seen and pain only sets in as the damage gets worse.

The best way to make sure dental caries are detected in the soonest possible time is to get regular checkups and cleanings from your dentist. If not, you’d have to wait until you feel pain when you bite or chew, or when your tooth feels sensitive when you drink hot or cold beverages.

This usually signals an exposed root or a crack on a tooth caused by cavities.

2. What Should You Do about Tooth Decay?

Diagnosing tooth decay will differ for each individual case. If you go for regular checkups and cleanings, your dentist will automatically check for caries, so you can be sure that even the earliest onset of cavities can be detected and remedied. The longer it takes for you to detect cavities, the more extensive or intrusive the necessary treatment will be.

However, if you go to a dentist specifically complaining of a pain or problem with a specific tooth, your dentist will check the tooth for cracks or pits.

Diagnosis may also involve a dental x-ray to see the extent o damage done by the cavity. This will show whether the cavity has reached the tooth root. A closer examination will also tell your dentist when the caries have been around.

Based on what you will find out from the x-ray, your dentist will give a diagnosis as to what treatment should be done.

3. Determining Treatment for Tooth Decay

Dental caries can sometimes be remedied, but are sometimes beyond repair. This will depend on how long the caries have been around.

Early caries can be filled up and closed up to prevent further build up of plague and to keep the holes from getting larger. However, the effects of severe caries are sometimes impossible to reverse.

Once the roots of the tooth are affected, the only form of treatment advisable is a root canal procedure, which will take out the root of the tooth and replace it with fillings. This is then capped by a crown.

Root canal procedures are quite costly, and are usually only partially covered by comprehensive dental insurance. So if you want to avoid this, better focus on prevention rather than on treatment.

4. Preventing Cavities

Cavities affect almost everyone, but they can actually be prevented.

Proper oral hygiene, which keeps teeth clean at all times, will prevent the buildup of plaque. But since our teeth are naturally vulnerable to harmful acids because of the food we eat, cavities can be expected. The best way to prevent it from becoming a big problem is to get regular checkups so even early caries are easily and immediately remedied.

Aside from seeing the dentist regularly, brush your teeth regularly and thoroughly. As much as possible, insert flossing into your routine. Wash your mouth each time you eat something sweet so as to avoid any leftovers to form plaque and stick to your teeth.

What to Expect from Dental Caries Treatment

A treatment procedure for dental caries can cause pain and discomfort especially in cases of severe caries or those in the late stages.

For the treatment, you can ask for numbing medicine to prevent the pain and discomfort. Treatment also puts you at a certain risk of complications such as tooth fracture, tooth abscess, and the likes depending on how bad your caries are.

These may change the course of treatment at any time.

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