What Are Dental Caries?

Do you or your children have dental caries? Untreated permanent teeth cavities are the most common health problem globally. Do you know what causes them or how to reduce the risk of getting cavities?

You may be surprised to learn about the contributing factors. Keep reading to see how to decrease your risk and how they’re treated.

What Is a Dental Carry?

Did you know that your mouth is full of bacteria? Good bacteria start digestion. But other bacteria mix with food or liquid in the mouth creating plaque.

Plaque contains bacteria, sugar, and starch that makes acid. The acid damages the enamel covering your teeth. Holes, called cavities or caries, can develop causing pain, infection, and tooth loss.

When plaque stays on teeth, it hardens into tartar. Plaque and tarter damage teeth and can lead to gum and heart disease. Severe gum infections have even caused death.

Risk Factor for Dental Caries

Do you notice that some people seem to get cavities more often than others? Cavities occur most in very young children and teens.

Yet, older adults are another high-risk group. The teeth wear down and the gums receded over time. This, combined with higher medication use, increases tooth and root decay.

The following describes some risk factors for caries.
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  • High-risk pregnancy causes more fetal stress during development
  • Low birth weight or premature babies may have poor enamel development (hypoplasias)
  • Frequent ear infections and antibiotic use, such as tetracycline, can cause hypoplasias
  • Inhaled steroids and other meds reduce saliva that washes away sugars and starches
  • Genetic tight teeth and deep grooves increase the risk for cavities
  • Frequent snacking and sipping promotes ongoing acid attacks
  • Eating or drinking before bedtime without brushing promotes acid development
  • Inadequate fluoride intake
  • Worn-out dental appliances or fillings can promote plaque build-up
  • Heartburn causes stomach acid to move into the mouth and damage the enamel

Eating disorders such as bulimia or anorexia increase cavity risk. This can interfere with saliva production. Frequent vomiting exposes the mouth to stomach acid.

Ways to Reduce the Risk of Tooth Decay

Developing healthy oral hygiene habits can reduce your risk for cavities. Try limiting snacking and sipping throughout the day. Each time you take in sugars or starches it sets off a 20-minute acid attack on your teeth.

Drink plenty of water to keep your mouth moist and wash away acid-producing matter. Brush with a fluoride toothpaste at least twice each day and floss once a day. Make sure you pay special attention to your back teeth.

Get a professional dental cleaning and oral checkup twice a year. School-aged children should get a protective plastic coating (sealants) put on chewing surfaces.

How Are Cavities Treated?

When dentists catch tooth decay early, fluoride treatments may resolve the problem. Often, cavities need fillings to fix the hole and prevent more damage or infections. In severe cases, you may need the tooth pulled.

What Is a Root Canal?

If the tooth decay has reached the tooth’s root or it’s infected, you may need a root canal. The root canal dentist removes the decayed inside of the tooth (pulp) and cleans it out. Next, they put a temporary filling in the tooth until you get your crown or permanent filling.

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