Dental Conditions
 


What this section contains?

Dental Conditions

What is Dental Conditions?

Tooth decay, also known as dental caries or cavities, is a breakdown of teeth due to acids made by bacteria. The cavities may be a number of different colors from yellow to black. Symptoms may include pain and difficulty with eating.

Oral health is a window to overall health. Teeth and gums (gingiva) are important pillars of the oral cavity and hence it is important to maintain their health. Two main dental diseases, caries and gum diseases, begin in childhood and are preventable by early diagnosis.

Cause

Four things are required for caries formation: a tooth surface (enamel or dentin), caries-causing bacteria, fermentable carbohydrates (such as sucrose), and time. This involves adherence of food to the teeth and acid creation by the bacteria that makes up the dental plaque. However, these four criteria are not always enough to cause the disease and a sheltered environment promoting development of a cariogenic biofilm is required. The caries disease process does not have an inevitable outcome, and different individuals will be susceptible to different degrees depending on the shape of their teeth, oral hygiene habits, and the buffering capacity of their saliva. Dental caries can occur on any surface of a tooth that is exposed to the oral cavity, but not the structures that are retained within the bone.

Tooth decay is caused by biofilm (dental plaque) lying on the teeth and maturing to become cariogenic (causing decay). Certain bacteria in the biofilm produce acid in the presence of fermentable carbohydrates such as sucrose, fructose, and glucose.

Caries occur more often in people from the lower end of the socioeconomic scale than people from the upper end of the socioeconomic scale.

Diagnosis & Tests

Primary diagnosis involves inspection of all visible tooth surfaces using a good light source, dental mirror and explorer. Dental radiographs (X-rays) may show dental caries before it is otherwise visible, in particular caries between the teeth. Large areas of dental caries are often apparent to the naked eye, but smaller lesions can be difficult to identify. Visual and tactile inspection along with radiographs are employed frequently among dentists, in particular to diagnose pit and fissure caries. Early, uncavitated caries is often diagnosed by blowing air across the suspect surface, which removes moisture and changes the optical properties of the unmineralized enamel.

Prevention & Risk Factors

Oral hygiene
A toothbrush can be used to remove plaque on accessible surfaces, but not between teeth or inside pits and fissures on chewing surfaces. When used correctly, dental floss removes plaque from areas that could otherwise develop proximal caries but only if the depth of sulcus has not been compromised. Additional aids include interdental brushes, water picks, and mouthwashes. The use of rotational electric toothbrushes might reduce the risk of plaque and gingivitis, though it is unclear whether they are of clinical importance.

Treatments & Therapies

Most importantly, whether the carious lesion is cavitated or non-cavitated dictates the management. Clinical assessment of whether the lesion is active or arrested is also important. Noncavitated lesions can be arrested and remineralization can occur under the right conditions. However, this may require extensive changes to the diet (reduction in frequency of refined sugars), improved oral hygiene (toothbrushing twice per day with fluoride toothpaste and daily flossing), and regular application of topical fluoride. More recently, Immunoglobulin Y specific to Streptococcus mutans has been used to suppress growth of S mutans. Such management of a carious lesion is termed "non-operative" since no drilling is carried out on the tooth. Non-operative treatment requires excellent understanding and motivation from the individual, otherwise the decay will continue.