Dental caries, which are also known as cavities or tooth decay, occur when the teeth are unable to protect themselves from outside damage. While this problem is relatively common and their rates are on the rise, caries can actually pose some serious health risks when left untreated. Since the damage done by tooth decay is not reversible, prevention is absolutely essential when dealing with dental caries. Here’s a look at what causes them, so that you’ll be better prepared to stop them before they begin.
The Bacterial Causes of Dental Caries
The most common way that caries form is through bacteria found in the mouth. It’s no secret that the human body is teeming with thousands of microscopic bacterial organisms, and most of them actually provide benefits to our physical health. However, those that live on or near the teeth can cause problems if left unchecked.
The bacteria found in your mouth are prone to forming colonies thanks to the presence of naturally-occurring proteins that act as a bonding agent. When this occurs, a sticky, film-like substance known as plaque is created. Plaque easily adheres to your teeth thanks to the many microscopic grooves and crevices found on them. As you eat, sugars from your food begin to stick to the grooves and crevices as well. These sugars sometimes referred to as sucrose, provide a source of nutrition for the bacteria found in the plaque. As they feed on this sugar, these organisms release an acidic byproduct that begins the dental caries process.
Your teeth are actually comprised of three different layers—the enamel, the dentin, and the pulp. The enamel is the outermost layer and acts as a protective barrier between the outside world and the more vulnerable inner layers of the teeth. As bacteria feed on the sugars in your mouth and produce acid, the enamel slowly begins to get worn away. At this point in the process, the dental caries is not yet a pressing issue, and many people don’t even realize that they’re developing.
However, if the bacteria is allowed to flourish, it will continue to cause problems. After the enamel has been stripped away, the acid will begin affecting the dentin. When this occurs, dental caries will probably begin to cause you tooth sensitivity or even outright pain. By this stage in the process, many times the caries are noticeably visible, thanks to their brown or black appearance. Unfortunately, most of the damage done is likely irreversible, since the dentin is not as durable as enamel.
Finally, dental caries reach the pulp of your teeth. At this point, tooth death and subsequent tooth loss are highly probable. Your affected teeth will probably not experience sensitivity to hot or cold anymore, but they will be highly sensitive to pressure. In severe cases, infection may occur, and it’s possible that it could spread to other areas of your body as well.
Other Causes of Dental Caries
While bacteria feeding on the sugar in your diet is the most common cause of dental caries, there are several other factors that may make you susceptible to them. Certain diseases can also spur on tooth decay. For example, a rare genetic disorder known as amelogenesis imperfect prevents enamel from forming properly, which can leave a patient’s teeth more vulnerable to dental caries than usual. Additionally, people who experience salivary problems may be more susceptible as well. Saliva acts as a diluting agent for bacteria and the acids they create, so an inability to properly produce it may lead to a higher risk of decay.
Featured Image: depositphotos/DeklofenakPosted on May 5, 2023