Tooth decay, also known as dental caries, is one of the most prevalent diseases affecting both children and adults and is second only to the common cold in frequency. According to the World Health Organization 60-90% of children worldwide, and nearly 100% of adults have dental cavities. Although tooth decay is a worldwide epidemic, it is also a condition that is largely preventable with effective oral hygiene practices, a healthy diet as well as routine checkups and professional dental cleanings.
Why do cavities occur?
Tooth decay is the outcome of a process that leads to gradual harm to the structure of the tooth. The main culprit responsible for this is dental plaque, a sticky film that builds up on the teeth and hosts harmful bacteria which thrive on sugar. When these bacteria break down sugar, they release acids that can gradually erode or deteriorate the healthy structure of the tooth. Initially, a cavity starts as a small defect on the outer layer of enamel, but if left untreated, it will progressively compromise the healthy tooth structure, eventually reaching the inner dentin layer and affecting the nerve and vital tissues inside the tooth. Depending on the severity of the tooth damage, a cavity can cause occasional, mild tooth sensitivity or intense and continuous discomfort.
It is crucial to seek dental treatment for tooth decay to prevent nerve damage, dental infections, tooth loss, or more severe consequences to overall health. Several factors can increase the risk of developing tooth decay, including poor oral hygiene, a diet high in sugar, dry mouth, bruxism (teeth grinding), enamel defects, deeply grooved teeth, and receding gums. For individuals at a higher risk of developing tooth decay, special toothpastes, fluoride rinses, and other supplemental measures may offer an additional layer of protection.