Dental caries, which is also referred to as tooth decay or cavities, is one of the most common and widespread persistent diseases today and is also one of the most preventable. When you eat certain foods, the bacteria on your teeth break them down and produces acids that have the ability to seriously damage the hard tissues of your tooth. The result is the formation of dental caries (cavities).
Causes: The bacteria turn to sugar and carbohydrates (starches) in the foods we eat into acids. The acids dissolve minerals in the hard enamel that covers the tooth’s crown (the part you can see). The enamel erodes or develops pits. They are too small to see at first. But they get larger over time.
Dental Caries Causes, Symptoms and Treatment
Acid also can seep through pores in the enamel. This is how decay begins in the softer dentin layer, the main body of the tooth. As the dentin and enamel break down, a cavity is created.
If the decay is not removed, bacteria will continue to grow and produce acid that eventually will get into the tooth’s inner layer. This contains the soft pulp and sensitive nerve fibers.
Tooth roots exposed by receding gums also can develop decay. The root’s outer layer, cementum, is not as thick as enamel. Acids from plaque bacteria can dissolve it rapidly.
Caries is a process. In its early stages, tooth decay can be stopped. It can even be reversed. Fluorides and other prevention methods also help a tooth in early stages of decay to repair itself (remineralize). White spots are the last stage of early caries.
Treatment: Once caries gets worse and there is a break in the enamel, only the dentist can repair the tooth. Then the standard treatment for a cavity is to fill the tooth. If a drill is used, the dentist will numb the area. If a laser is used, a numbing shot is not usually required. The decayed material in the cavity is removed and the cavity is filled.
Many fillings are made of dental amalgam or composite resin. Amalgam is a silver-gray material made from silver, mercury, copper or other metals. Composite resin offers a better appearance because it is tooth-colored. Newer resins are very durable.
Amalgams are used in molars and premolars because the metal is not seen in the back of the mouth. Composite and ceramic materials are used for all teeth. source