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Dental caries Definition, Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Definition of tooth decay

Dental caries is an infectious disease. The enamel of the tooth is the first touched. A cavity is formed in the tooth and the caries is spread in depth. If the decay is not treated, the hole gets bigger and the decay can reach the dentine (layer under the enamel). Pain begins to be felt, especially with hot, cold or sweet. Decay can reach the pulp of the tooth. This is called toothache. Finally, a tooth abscess can appear when the bacteria attack the ligament, bone or gum.

Sugars would be one of the main culprits in the attack of enamel. In fact, the bacteria present in the mouth, mainly the bacteria Streptococcus mutans and lactobacilli, break down sugars into acids. They bind to acids, food particles and saliva to form what is known as dental plaque, which causes tooth decay. Brushing teeth removes this plaque.

Dental caries, very common, affect the teeth of milk (a decayed tooth of milk must be treated even if it is brought to fall) and the final teeth. Rather, they reach the molars and premolars, which are harder to clean when brushing. Cavities never heal spontaneously and may cause the teeth to fall.

Symptoms of dental caries

The symptoms of tooth decay are highly variable and depend in particular on the stage of caries evolution and its location. At the very beginning, when the enamel is the only one affected, the decay can be painless. The most common symptoms are:

  • dental pains, which increase with time;
  • sensitive teeth;
  • acute pain when eating or drinking something cold, hot, sweet;
  • pain while biting;
  • brown point on the tooth;
  • no more around the tooth;

People at risk

The heredity plays a role in causing cavities. Children, adolescents and the elderly would develop caries more frequently.

Causes of dental caries

The causes of dental caries are multiple but sugars, especially when consumed between meals, remain the main culprits. For example, there is a link between sugary drinks and caries or between honey and caries . But other factors such as nibbling or bad brushing are also implicated.


Cavity can have serious consequences for teeth and general health. It can, for example, cause severe pain, abscesses sometimes accompanied by fever or swelling of the face, problems with chewing and nutrition, teeth that break or fall, infections … Cavity must be neat as soon as possible.

Risk factors

The oral hygiene is a very important parameter in the development of dental caries. A diet rich in sugar also greatly increases the risk of developing cavities.

A lack of fluoride would also be responsible for the appearance of caries. Finally, eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia or gastro-oesophageal reflux disease are pathologies that weaken teeth and facilitate the installation of cavities.

Diagnostic of Dental caries

The diagnosis is easily made by the dentist since the caries is often visible to the naked eye. He asks about the pain and sensitivity of the teeth. An X-ray can confirm the presence of caries.

Prevalence of Dental caries

Cavities are very common. More than nine out of ten people reportedly had at least one cavity. In France, more than one-third of children six years old and more than half of 12-year-olds would have been affected by this infection. In Canada, 57% of children between the ages of 6 and 12 have at least one tooth decay.

The prevalence of dental caries affecting the crown of the tooth (the visible part that is not covered by the gums) increases until the quarantine and then stabilizes. The prevalence of caries that affects the root of the tooth, often by loosening or eroding the gums, continues to increase with age and is common among older adults.

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