Dental caries

What is it?

Teeth affect our physical, mental, and social health. Good teeth are needed to chew food into pieces small enough for the digestive system to handle. They also help us look and feel good. Neglected teeth become diseased and cannot perform their function. They may cause bad breath and spoil a smile as well.

What are the causes?

Dental caries is a very common problem. Bacteria normally reside in the mouth. They, however, mix with the proteins present in the saliva (spit) to form plaque and attach to the hard enamel surface of the tooth. The bacteria feed on food sugars and starches and produce an acid. This acid eats into the tooth enamel damaging the tooth.

What are the symptoms?

Initially there may be no symptoms while the enamel is being eaten away. Later, tooth sensitivity may be noticed. There may be discomfort while eating sweet foods and hot or cold drinks or foods. If the cavity becomes very large or a tooth abscess develops which may be accompanied by pain, swelling or fever. This is why it is important to have frequent dental check ups. If it hurts, it is already too late.

How is the diagnosis made?

A dentist may identify the areas of decay quite early. Sometimes dental X-rays may be advised.

What is the treatment?

Small cavities are treated by simple fillings. It is possible to have tooth-coloured filling using special compounds to avoid detection. If a part of the tooth has decayed material, it is removed and the resultant hole in the tooth is filled. Fillings are usually made of silver-mercury or resin. If the decay has reached the central portion of the tooth that contains the nerves and blood vessels (pulp), a root canal treatment is advised wherein the decayed pulp is removed, a filling done and the tooth covered by a cap or crown. Most dental procedures are performed under local anaesthesia where the local nerves are numbed.

What are the prevention?

The key to prevention is to remove the plaque and bacteria before the acid gets a chance to eat away the tooth. The mouth must be kept clean. Brushing must be done twice a day with a soft-bristle brush. Toothpastes with fluoride are helpful. The intake of sugars and starches must be limited. Whenever sweet things are eaten, the mouth must be rinsed immediately.

Mahesh Verma#/doctor/mahesh-verma-108545#108545#Entity

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