All About Tooth Decays or Dental Cavities (Dental Caries)


Dental Caries is an infectious disease caused by microorganisms or bacteria which destroy the tooth structure leading to holes in the teeth.

Dental caries, also known as tooth decay or cavities, is the breakdown of teeth due to acids produced by bacteria.

It is the most common disease occurring in the oral cavity. This disease can lead to pain, infection and even tooth loss.

What are the Warning Signs of Dental Cavities?

· Toothache

· Tooth sensitivity – mild to sharp pain when eating or drinking something sweet, hot, or cold

· Pain when you bite down

· Visible pits or holes in your teeth

· Black, brown, or white stains on any tooth surface

How do we get Cavities?

Acids produced by bacteria in dental plaque cause caries. Plaque is a soft, thin film of bacteria and food debris that forms on the tooth surface within 24 hours of cleaning.

Other causes of dental cavities include:

· Poor oral hygiene

· Not using antibacterial mouthwash daily

· Dry mouth

· Broken teeth

· Disease conditions like HIV, AIDS, diabetes mellitus, etc.,

· High blood pressure

· Kidney and liver problems

· Use of tobacco

· Improper nutrition

· Consumption of excess sugars

What are the Risk Factors for Dental Caries?

Several factors increase the risk of developing dental caries. Risk factors for tooth decay include:

· Poor dental hygiene

· Dry mouth (inadequate salivation)

· Excessive consumption of sugary, starchy, or acidic foods or drinks

· Loss of gum tissue

· Smoking

How Is Tooth Decay Diagnosed?

Tooth decay is usually detected by:

· Asking about symptoms like tooth pain and sensitivity

· Examining your mouth and teeth

· Checking your teeth for soft spots with dental instruments

· Examining dental X-rays to determine the extent of cavities and decay

What are the Treatment Options for Dental Caries?

· Dental fillings: also known as “Dental restorations”, using composite resins and ceramics. The dentist will remove dental caries by drilling under local anaesthesia. Dental fillings restore tooth shape and function and prevent disease progression.

· Root canal treatment: If the caries bacteria spread to the deeper tooth structures, a root canal treatment is recommended, which helps remove bacteria from the roots. Root canal treatment saves a badly damaged tooth and prevents its extraction.

· Dental crown: A dental crown will be required if the tooth becomes weak. It protects a tooth with a large filling and restores its shape and function after root canal treatment.

· Tooth extraction: If the tooth is damaged severely and cannot be restored with dental

fillings, it must be removed.

What are the Complications of Dental Cavities?

Dental cavities are not usually life-threatening. The risk of complications can be reduced by following the accurate treatment plan advised by your dentist. Complications of tooth decay include:

· Difficulty chewing

· Pain

· Tooth damage or loss

· Tooth sensitivity

· Pus formation

What Can You Do to Prevent Dental Cavities?

They can be prevented by taking the following measures:

· Regular tooth brushing: Brush twice daily using the correct brushing technique.

· Dental floss: Use interdental brushes and dental floss to remove plaque along the gum line and spaces between the teeth.

· Use of Fluoride: Toothpaste, gel and mouthwash with fluoride make your teeth stronger and more resistant to dental caries.

· Healthy diet: Start consuming a healthy diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables, which can clean your teeth naturally.

· Avoid consumption of sugary foods and drinks: Sugary beverages and foods contribute to developing dental caries. Oral bacteria break down sugars, which produce acids that harm tooth structure.

· Excessive water intake: Helps to clean your teeth from bacteria and food debris.

· Chew sugar-free gum: Increases the flow of saliva, which can inhibit the caries bacteria.

· Visit a dentist: At least twice a year for examination and cleaning. The tooth structure will be less damaged if the cavities are detected earlier.

Do’s and Don’ts in Preventing Dental Caries:


· Brush your teeth twice daily

· See your dentist regularly

· Consume fibre-rich vegetables and fruits


· Do not consume excessive sugars

· Do not sleep with mouth open (dries out the mouth, leading to reduced flow of saliva, increasing the risk for caries)

· Do not smoke