Dental Caries

Dental Caries

Dental Caries

What is dental caries?

This means continuous decay of teeth, eventually exposing the sensitive parts. The hard cover of the tooth s gradually eroded.

What teeth are mostly affected by caries?

The process affects flat teeth in premolar and molar region due to their physical appearance which allows food stagnation.

How does dental caries present?

The symptoms of caries include tooth pain and or sensitivity to cold or/and hot substances. This results from exposure of nerve endings occasioned by the decay. Other symptoms that will come with the caries include the swelling of jaws. Some patients may not have no symptoms except a visible tooth cavity.

What factors favor development of dental caries?

  • Certain foods that favor growth of bacteria
  • There must be bacteria on the teeth
  • A tooth whose surface favors food stagnation

What specific bacteria play a role in development of dental caries?

Certain species of bacteria called the streptococcus break down carbohydrates and release acids that dissolve calcium deposited in the tooth. Food particles left on the tooth also prevent the protective effect of the saliva and other oral secretions.

What are different types of caries?

These can be classified as follows:

  1. Enamel caries: affects enamel only, usually painless
  2. Dentine caries: affects both enamel and dentine, may be painful if pulp is exposed
  3. Caries of the cementum: affects cement, that is, the structure that attaches the tooth to the socket.

What are the complications of dental caries?

  • Pain
  • Spread of infections around the tooth
  • Distant spread of infections
  • Oral abscess and respiratory complications
  • Heart complications: infective endorcarditis, infection of heart valves
  • Worsening of existing medical illnesses such as diabetes.
  • Death may result from complication of dental caries

How are dental caries managed?

The methods used depend on extent of cavitation noted and presence of symptoms as well as complications. Usually, prevention of caries is the best approach. This is done by practicing good oral hygiene habits.

These include:

  • Proper brushing of the teeth after meals
  • Use of right kind of brush and changing regularly
  • Avoiding too sugary foods
  • Regular visits to dentist at least once per year for check up and advice

If dental caries are already established, they can be managed by any of the following methods singularly or in combinations:

  1. Filling
  2. Root canal treatment
  3. Crowns
  4. Tooth replacement
  5. Dentures
  6. Extraction under local anesthesia (XLA)

How can I know what kind of treatment is needed if I have dental caries?

The kind of treatment is determined by the dentist. This puts into consideration the cost of procedure, availability of procedure and materials, the extent of decay, aesthetic factors, other medical or surgical conditions present, and competence of the dental practitioner, and presence or absence of complications. Always consult a qualified personnel for advice.

What is the public health significance of dental caries?

  1. Loss of revenue through absenteeism from work
  2. Decreased quality of life
  3. Death and disability from complications such as spread of infections and respiratory compromise.
  4. Spread of infections due to use of unsterilized apparatus
  5. Increased legal cases against dental practitioners