Dental Caries: Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis and Treatment
Nowadays it is very difficult to find an adult who has never treated the teeth. The main reason for going to the dentist is caries, which destroys the tooth and causes pain in patients. Untreated caries often leads to tooth extraction, which ultimately affects the state of the body as a whole. The widespread prevalence of this disease makes it one of the most socially significant. Therefore, it is so important for each of us to know what caries is, how to deal with it, and how to prevent it.
What is caries?
From the Latin language, the word “caries” is translated as “decay”. In case of caries, calcium is washed out slowly, gradually and almost inevitably from tooth enamel, as a result of which enamel is destroyed. As a result, the organic basis of the tooth suffers, there appear cavities, inflammations of the pulp (the internal tissue of the tooth, supplying it with blood vessels and nerve fibers), and periodontitis. The reasons for this disease are complex. The role played by the general condition of the body, lifestyle, and the state of the environment.
Causes of caries
Most dentists agree that tooth decay occurs due to changes in the acid-base balance on the tooth surface. Excessive, destructive amounts of organic acids are formed during the fermentation of carbohydrates. The specific types of streptococci that cause this fermentation have been identified. Note that all this happens under the plaque.
So, you are at risk if you are a carrier of these bacteria, consume a lot of carbohydrates and, moreover, if the surface of your teeth is naturally susceptible to caries.
There are several stereotypes that exist in the popular mind about the causes of caries. In particular, it is sometimes argued that the use of very acidic foods, such as lemons, contributes to tooth decay. There is no direct dependence, however, acids can actually damage the enamel and then the tooth becomes more accessible for caries.
What causes dental caries?
Tooth decay depends on a number of factors. We will list the most important ones:
- Excess of harmful carbohydrates, especially sugar in food;
- Irregular removal (or non-removal) of plaque;
- Eating soft foods. If you have to chew solid food, plaque is cleaned naturally;
- Lack of vitamins and minerals in food;
- Lack of fluoride in the body. It is no coincidence that it is part of almost all toothpastes. In some countries, fluoride is added to drinking water;
- Hereditary predisposition to caries;
- Weakened immunity;
- Certain diseases (scurvy, rickets, osteochondrosis, exudative diathesis, diabetes mellitus);
- The use of a number of drugs that affect the viscosity and salivation, for example, cause dry mouth.
If you have these factors, tooth decay can develop within a couple of months. When these factors are minimized, the development of caries can take up to four years.
Stages of caries development and its symptoms
Caries goes through the following stages, depending on the depth of damage to tooth tissue:
- Carious stain. The initial stage when the tooth enamel changes color;
- Superficial caries. The stain becomes rough. The tooth reacts to hot and cold food, to sweet and sour (however, not always);
- Average caries. Caries penetrates deeper, into dentin – the tissue that is under the enamel. The pain becomes more acute and prolonged;
- Deep caries. Caries penetrates to the border of dentin and pulp (nerve).
If the tooth has not been treated, complications may occur: pulpitis and periodontitis.
And it’s absolutely sad when the infection that spreads to nearby organs and tissues, and sometimes to the whole body. There are even cases of a fatal outcome caused by untreated caries.
In some cases, using a mirror and analyzing their own feelings, patients can make a diagnosis of caries themselves. However, there are cases when only a specialist can correctly make a diagnosis and risk assessment. We are talking about the initial stage when there are practically no symptoms, but the doctor using modern diagnostic tools will detect the first signs of the disease. At later stages, it is important to distinguish tooth decay from other dental diseases, which is also the competence of a trained doctor. We will consider those symptoms that the patient should pay attention to.
The first symptom is a discoloration of tooth enamel. Dark brown or, conversely, too white spots appear on the surface of the tooth. Pay particular attention to areas near fillings. Also, do not disregard the fact that the tooth began to respond to hot-cold. Another bad sign is damage to the dental floss during its use: caries may develop on the invisible side of the tooth. If you notice any suspicious symptoms, consult a doctor immediately. Unfortunately, statistics show that only ten out of a hundred patients can independently detect caries.
The treatment of dental caries is surgical and depends on the degree of damage.
At the initial stage (the stage of the spot), treating a tooth is easiest. The doctor removes the stain and applies a special mineral paste to the tooth, including sodium fluoride and calcium gluconate.
Treatment of superficial caries depends on its location. You may need a tooth filling. Remineralization is also carried out.
With moderate caries, the affected area of the tooth is removed, medical treatment is performed and a filling is placed.
Deep caries requires the same treatment only it affects a large area. In conclusion, the patient may require a crown on the treated tooth.
Treatment of complicated caries is due to the type of complication. In the treatment of pulpitis, it is necessary to remove the nerve. The patient can also be prescribed antibiotics. In some cases, the only thing that can be done is tooth removal.
Of course, scientists all over the world are working on how to stop the destructive effect of caries with medical, that is, non-surgical means. According to Graves RC, now there are interesting data on the treatment of caries with special hormones. But these methods are still at the experimental stage and have not entered into general practice.
Prevention of caries
Now we clearly formulate the rules for dental caries prevention:
First of all, you should observe oral hygiene:
- Brush your teeth 2 times a day for at least 2-3 minutes;
- Use dental floss to clean interdental spaces;
- Use fluoride-containing toothpaste;
- Use rinsing agents containing chlorhexidine to suppress pathogenic bacteria.
Switch to proper nutrition:
- Limit sugar intake. Refuse sweet between main meals. Do not eat sweets before bedtime;
- Eat foods rich in vitamins and minerals;
- After the main meal, eat fresh vegetable and fruit;
- You can use sugar-free chewing gum after eating.
Lead the right lifestyle. A full sleep, sufficient stay in the fresh air, lack of stress, moderate physical activity strengthen the whole body and also resists caries. And be sure to visit the dentist at least once a year!
Some additional facts
Just like that, after some time, the seals do not need to be changed. A seal may remain with you all your life. Reason for replacement: breaking the fillings or teeth, as well as tooth decay caused by the fillings.
Small caries is asymptomatic. Waiting for the pain, you thereby doom yourself to more expensive and complex treatment.
Caries stops in the treated tooth. It can return after some time if the seal has receded and bacteria begin to penetrate into the resulting space between the seal and the tooth.
Often caries occurs in places that are difficult to reach with a brush, for example, in interdental spaces. Therefore, we strongly advise you to use dental floss.
Not all tooth sensitivity indicates caries. It can be caused, for example, by gum disease, in which the root of the tooth is exposed. In any case, only the doctor can name the cause.
If the decay of deciduous teeth is detected, they should be treated if possible, not removed. After all, milk teeth retain a place for molars. In the absence of milk teeth, molars may not locate properly.
Summing up the above, we repeat that many factors influence the development of caries, including lifestyle, eating habits, and personal hygiene. It is difficult to diagnose caries with your own strengths, so it is better to visit a doctor regularly for check-ups. Caries treatment today is only surgical. You should not rely on natural methods. The sooner you go to the doctor, the fewer problems will arise during treatment.
Category: Health and Wellness
Tags: dental caries, teeth, teeth health