Tooth decay

Tooth decay, also known as cavities or caries, is the breakdown of teeth due to acids produced by bacteria.[6] The cavities may be a number of different colors from yellow to black.[1] Symptoms may include pain and difficulty with eating.[1][2] Complications may include inflammation of the tissue around the tooth, tooth loss and infection or abscess formation.[1][3]

Tooth decay
Other namesDental cavities, dental caries, cavities, caries
Destruction of a tooth by dental caries and disease.
Pronunciation
SpecialtyDentistry
SymptomsPain, tooth loss, difficulty eating[1][2]
ComplicationsInflammation around the tooth, tooth loss, infection or abscess formation[1][3]
DurationLong term
CausesBacteria producing acid from food debris[4]
Risk factorsDiet high in simple sugar, diabetes mellitus, Sjögren syndrome, medications that decrease saliva[4]
PreventionLow-sugar diet, tooth brushing, fluoride, flossing[2][5]
MedicationParacetamol (acetaminophen), ibuprofen[6]
Frequency3.6 billion (2016)[7]

The cause of cavities is acid from bacteria dissolving the hard tissues of the teeth (enamel, dentin and cementum).[4] The acid is produced by the bacteria when they break down food debris or sugar on the tooth surface.[4] Simple sugars in food are these bacteria's primary energy source and thus a diet high in simple sugar is a risk factor.[4] If mineral breakdown is greater than build up from sources such as saliva, caries results.[4] Risk factors include conditions that result in less saliva such as: diabetes mellitus, Sjögren syndrome and some medications.[4] Medications that decrease saliva production include antihistamines and antidepressants.[4] Dental caries are also associated with poverty, poor cleaning of the mouth, and receding gums resulting in exposure of the roots of the teeth.[6][8]

Prevention of dental caries includes regular cleaning of the teeth, a diet low in sugar, and small amounts of fluoride.[2][4] Brushing one's teeth twice per day and flossing between the teeth once a day is recommended.[4][6] Fluoride may be acquired from water, salt or toothpaste among other sources.[2] Treating a mother's dental caries may decrease the risk in her children by decreasing the number of certain bacteria she may spread to them.[4] Screening can result in earlier detection.[6] Depending on the extent of destruction, various treatments can be used to restore the tooth to proper function or the tooth may be removed.[6] There is no known method to grow back large amounts of tooth.[9] The availability of treatment is often poor in the developing world.[2] Paracetamol (acetaminophen) or ibuprofen may be taken for pain.[6]

Worldwide, approximately 3.6 billion people (48% of the population) have dental caries in their permanent teeth as of 2016.[7] The World Health Organization estimates that nearly all adults have dental caries at some point in time.[2] In baby teeth it affects about 620 million people or 9% of the population.[10] They have become more common in both children and adults in recent years.[11] The disease is most common in the developed world due to greater simple sugar consumption and less common in the developing world.[6] Caries is Latin for "rottenness".[3]


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