Dental caries (tooth decay)

Dental caries (tooth decay)

By Faozat Aragbaye
Dental caries, also known as tooth decay or cavities, is the breakdown of teeth due to acids produced by bacteria.


  • Bacteria
  • Snacking
  • Sipping sugary drinks
  • Poor teeth cleaning


There are different types of dental caries including:

  • Enamel caries
  • Dentin caries
  • Reversible caries
  • Pit and fissures
  • Smooth surface
  • Acute dental caries
  • Early childhood caries
  • Primary and secondary caries


 1- formation of white spots on surface of the tooth

 2- Enamel decay

3-Dentin decay

4-Involvement of the pulp

5-Abscess formation

6- Tooth loss


Saliva helps prevent plaque from attaching to the teeth and wash away and digest food particles. A low salivary flow or dry mouth leaves the teeth more vulnerable to tooth decay. This is common in diseases that feature dryness of the mouth such as Sjogren’s syndrome. Genetic factors that affect tooth decay include:

  • Tooth size and shape: small teeth with numerous deep pitsand grooves will be vulnerable to cavity formation.
  • Thickness of enamel: enamel is the tooth’s main defence against cavities, so the thicker it is the longer it will take to have cavity in the tooth.
  • Tooth position and bite: crooked, overlapped teeth provide more areas for plaque to accumulate and are harder to keep clean.
  • Tooth eruption time and sequence: people who get their permanent teeth earlier in life are at greater risk for cavities because oral hygiene practices may not be developed yet.


As the decay gets larger, it may cause signs and symptoms such as:

  • Tooth pain, spontaneous pain or pain that occurs without apparent cause.
  • Tooth sensitivity
  • Mild to sharp pain when eating or drinking something sweet, hot or cold
  • Visible holes or pits in the teeth


The dentist is usually the one that make diagnosis of dental caries. The dentist can detect tooth decay by:

  • Asking the patient about tooth pain and sensitivity.
  • Examining the mouth and teeth
  • Probing the teeth with dental instruments to check for soft areas.
  • Looking at dental X-rays, which can show the extent of cavities and decay.


Treatment of cavities depends on how severe they are and the particular situation. Treatment options include:

  • Fluoride treatments- For a cavity that just started, a fluoride treatment may help restore tooth                       enamel and can sometimes reverse a cavity in the very early stages. Fluoride treatments may be liquid, gel, foam or vanish that’s brushed onto the teeth or that’s fits over the teeth.
  • Fillings –fillings also called restoration are the main treatments option when decay has                              progressed beyond the earliest stage.
  • Crowns-for extensive decay or weakened teeth, there is need for crown.
  • Root canals- when decay reaches the inner material of the tooth (pulp), there is need for root canal. This treatment is to repair and save a badly damaged or infected tooth instead of removing it.
  • Tooth extraction- some teeth become so severely decayed that they can’t be restored but be                         removed.


                Good and oral dental hygiene can help prevent tooth decay. Here are tips  to prevent cavities:

  • Brush with fluoride toothpaste after eating or drinking.
  • Rinse mouth with fluoride for high risk people
  • Regular visit to the dentist for check-up.

                Maintaining a healthy diet especially for children and toddlers.

Dental caries (tooth decay)

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