Dental caries is an infectious, contagious, progressive disease that causes loss of tooth structure due to acid production and loss of tooth minerals. When caries are large enough there is a visible defect in the tooth called a cavity.
There are many factors involved in the development of caries. The most important of these factors are:
1. Presence of acid producing bacteria.
2. Exposure time to sugars/carbohydrates and acids.
3. Diminished saliva due to medications or medicalconditions.
Regular brushing and flossing can help to remove bacteria and carbohydrates that are found on the teeth. Many medications and conditions may be responsible for changes in the amount of saliva. Talk to your dentist about any medications you are taking.
If you have caries, finding it early is important for the health of the tooth and the rest of your body. Untreated caries leads to infection, abcess, and systemic symptoms. Small caries can often be fixed with a filling. As caries progresses and becomes larger a crown and/or root canal may be needed to restore the tooth and eliminate infection. If the caries is too advanced the tooth may not be able to be restored and the tooth will need to be extracted.