Causes and treatment of tooth decay

Dental caries is one of the most common oral diseases in both children and adults. According to 2015 data, the prevalence of caries in adults aged 35 years and older is between 95% and 100%.

Moreover, according to the study Oral health in Spain 2020, the number of caries is not expected to decrease but will remain at the current figure of around 95% of those affected in the Spanish adult population.

Why is the problem so widespread? One possible explanation is that caries is usually asymptomatic in the initial stage, i.e. at the beginning they do not cause pain or inflammation or other noticeable symptoms, so the person does not usually realize that he or she has caries. This is why regular check-ups are important, since the dentist does detect caries at an early stage, when they are easier to treat, and can advise us on how to prevent them.

What is dental caries?
Tooth decay is an oral disease of bacterial origin. That is to say, it is a form of infection that damages the surface of the tooth enamel, and it goes through holes until it reaches the innermost areas of the tooth. If you search dentist Dothan AL, you will find more information.

In this graphic we can see the main stages of dental caries:

Small black spots on the surface of the tooth.
The enamel deteriorates and caries affect the dentin.
The infection becomes deeper, affecting the dental pulp.
Abscesses are formed, and the tooth may be lost.
Main symptoms of caries
The symptoms of caries vary according to their size, stage, and location. For example, as we have mentioned, in the initial phase there are usually no symptoms, it may only be perceptible to the naked eye as a small black dot.

As it progresses, we may notice a sudden pain in the teeth or molars without apparent cause or when biting. It is a tooth sensitivity that is also common to appear in cold weather and when eating sweets.

In the more advanced stages, the hole will become larger and more visible, depending on the area in which it is located, and may cause nerve involvement. If this is the case, the pain can be extremely intense and spontaneous, without the need for external stimuli to provoke it. In this situation, it is easy for dental phlegmons to occur.

Factors influencing dental caries
Caries is a multifactorial disease, that is, it is caused by a combination of several factors, such as bacteria present in the mouth, the consumption of certain foods or beverages rich in sugars or carbohydrates, and incomplete or insufficient oral hygiene.

In addition, other factors such as the pH of saliva, genetic predisposition, or certain medications that alter the quality and quantity of saliva in the mouth can also influence the more or less frequent appearance of caries.

Prevention and treatment of caries
The treatment of caries will depend on how advanced it is:

In the initial stage, caries may be treated with a filling. The dentist removes the damaged part of the enamel and places a covering material in the space. If the cavity is small in an incipient stage that only affects the enamel, the filling is not done. If the enamel of the damaged area is cared for with proper hygiene and an extra supply of fluoride is applied, this enamel is repaired by means of physiological remineralization.
If caries has advanced and has affected the dental pulp, endodontics may be necessary, i.e., devitalization of the nerve.
If the infection has advanced and it is not possible to save the tooth, extraction will be necessary, and a dental implant may be considered. Therefore, as we have mentioned, it is very important to check our oral health at least once a year, to detect these possible problems at an early stage.

But we can also carry out some actions to prevent the appearance of caries, especially if we have a tendency to suffer from it:

At Ahora Clinic we apply a prevention plan in patients with a high caries risk. The first step is to make a correct diagnosis of the predisposing factors. To do this, we analyze the quality and quantity of saliva and the concentration of caries-causing bacteria strains. In this way, we establish the risk of suffering the disease, i.e. caries.
Follow a correct oral hygiene routine, including brushing, mouthwash, and flossing, especially before going to bed.
Avoid consumption of foods and beverages with a high sugar or carbohydrate content. Especially energy drinks, since in addition to their sugar content, their acidity causes accelerated wear of the enamel.