Dental Caries or more commonly referred to as a dental cavity, or dental decay is a disease caused by microbes normally present in the oral cavity. It is the most prevalent chronic disease affecting mankind. Once it occurs its manifestations persist throughout life even after the lesion has been treated.
Dental caries may properly be considered a disease of modern civilization, since prehistoric man rarely suffered from dental caries.
What causes dental caries?
When we eat food that contains sugar or starch it tends to stick into the crevices or grooves in the teeth. This then slowly ferments to form acids. The film that is formed on the tooth surface is called plaque, which contains microorganisms. These microbes then attack the weakened tooth structure i.e. enamel and the process of dental caries is initiated.
The initial or earliest symptoms of dental caries are sensitivity to hot and cold foods. The moment one experiences this sensitivity he should immediately visit the dentist for an early treatment. A simple restoration can take care of the problem and can arrest the further spread of caries to adjacent teeth.
As the lesion progresses further and involves the inner layer, that is the dentin, the person will continue to experience symptoms of sensitivity to hot and cold foods. The intensity of the pain may increase slightly and may last longer. In this stage, it is still not too late to visit the dentist and get a restoration done. The tooth can still be saved.
When the lesion progresses further and involves the pulp, the nerve centre of the tooth, the person will experience sharp or continuous pain in the tooth. The characteristic feature of this pain is that it occurs usually at night when the person is lying down and does not abate soon. It may continue throughout the night and the person generally has to take a pain killer to get relief. This stage is the “dying pulp” stage. The person should visit the dentist and take appropriate medication to relieve pain. The dentist may have to do a Root canal procedure in this case to save the tooth.
How to prevent dental caries?
Dental caries can be prevented by scrupulous oral hygiene measures.
• Proper brushing techniques must be followed to remove plaque effectively from all the surfaces of the teeth.
• Brush your teeth twice a day, once in the morning and at night before going to bed.
• Rinse your mouth thoroughly after every meal.
• Use inter dental aids like toothpicks, dental floss and inter dental brushes to clean the inter dental areas that cannot be reached by normal brushing.
• Clean your tongue daily.
• Use commercially available Fluoride mouthwashes to rinse your mouth daily before going to bed at night.Fluoride helps in preventing dental decay.
• Use fluoride containing toothpastes.
• Children should be supervised by their parents right from birth regarding their oral hygiene and habits. Dental caries can be prevented and arrested if detected early.
Follow these simple steps to take better care of your teeth. Visit the dentist for a routine check up every 6 months.