Tooth enamel is the hardest substance in the human body, but it can be damaged as well. Tooth decay or cariogenesis means the breakdown of enamel and dentin found in the tooth. The occlusal surfaces of molar teeth, surfaces between the teeth and gum lines experience tooth decay most commonly because cleaning these areas is often difficult.

Caries do not necessarily cause any symptoms, and it can sometimes progress undetected. Consequently, asymptomatic teeth should also be checked regularly at a dentist’s office.

Early-phase caries can cause sensitive teeth, especially to cold. When caries progresses further, it can cause symptoms such as sensitivity to percussion and heat. Toothache can also be an indicator of advanced caries. You should contact a dentist when any symptoms appear.

How does caries advance in a tooth?

A tooth consists of enamel, dentin and pulp. Enamel is the hardest substance in the human body. A softer tissue, dentin, can be found underneath the enamel. Veins that carry blood to the tooth and nerves that innervate the tooth’s tactile pain senses are located in the pulp. The tooth is connected to the surrounding bone structure with periodontal fibres.

Caries begin in the enamel, and it can advance to the dentin and all the way to the pulp. Caries advance faster in dentin because it is softer than enamel.

What causes tooth decay?

The three most common causes of caries are oral bacteria, diet and saliva.

Various bacteria are present in a normal healthy mouth. Mutans Streptococci, in particular, are bacteria that can cause cariogenesis. Some people have more Mutans Streptococci bacteria in their mouths than others. In order to survive in a mouth, the bacteria require sugar. When the bacteria use sugar as a nutrient, their metabolism generates acidic substances. These acids corrode the surface of the enamel, breaking down its structures and causing tooth decay.

Consequently, a sugary diet causes cavities. Diet is a significant factor in cariogenesis. The quality of the diet and especially the frequency of eating affect the formation of cavities. Eating sweet snacks and drinking acidic soft drinks frequently is particularly harmful for teeth.

Saliva rinses the mouth and decreases the amount of bacteria present on the surfaces of the teeth. Additionally, saliva contains minerals that strengthen the surface of the enamel. The saliva effect is the third significant factor in cavity formation. A dry mouth and decreased salivary secretion radically expose the teeth for cariogenesis.

Preventing tooth decay that causes dental cavities

The best way to prevent cavities is to maintain good oral hygiene. Brushing your teeth carefully every morning and evening with fluoride toothpaste is key. Mechanical brushing removes bacteria from the surface of the teeth. The fluoride in the toothpaste strengthens and hardens the enamel, and it can also repair and stop damages in the enamel. In addition to fluoride toothpaste, fluoride can be found in fluoride tablets and fluoride varnish used by dentists. In addition to brushing, you should use a dental floss or a tooth pick to clean between the teeth, as this area is out of the toothbrush’s reach.

Every snack or meal can cause an acid attack, where acidic substances corrode the surface of the teeth for up to thirty minutes. In order to maintain the amount of acid attacks at a minimum, you should have meals at regular intervals. Sweet treats should be eaten with meals. Snacks, sweet and acidic drinks and unnecessary meals should be avoided.

It is recommended to have xylitol after meals. Instead of regular sweets, you should enjoy treats sweetened with xylitol. Oral bacteria are unable to use xylitol, preventing acid attacks. In addition, chewing on xylitol gum increases salivary secretion, rinsing the bacteria and diluting their acidic metabolic products.

Preventing pediatric tooth decay that causes cavities

The Mutans Streptococci bacteria that causes cavities is often passed from a mother to her babies. The bacterial infection can be transferred in saliva, for example, by eating with shared utensils or licking the baby’s pacifier. The younger the baby is when exposed to the bacteria, the more certain is the transfer. You should avoid salivary contact with babies, and mothers should maintain good personal oral hygiene. Avoiding Mutans Streptococci infection alone is not enough to protect children from caries.

Children do not crave sweets before they are taught to eat them. The older the children are when they are introduced to sweets, the better are their chances of avoiding caries throughout their lives.

The recommended usage amount of fluoride is different for small children from the adults’ recommendations. Otherwise, the prevention of pediatric tooth decay applies the same rules of good oral hygiene and regular meal frequency as with adults. It is recommended to begin cleaning between the teeth when the milk teeth have been replaced.