Dental caries, its causes, treatment and prevention
Dental caries is an infectious disease caused by bacteria, which affects the hard tissues of teeth. These bacteria break down carbohydrates from foods and produce acids which dissolve the enamel. Periodontitis and dental caries are the most common diseases of the oral cavity.
How is caries formed?
Apart from bacteria, the presence of carbohydrates usable by bacteria is a necessary criterion for caries formation. Another important factor is insufficient dental hygiene. Bacteria collect around the teeth in a structured mass called plaque.
The adhesion of bacteria to dental tissues is rather low. However, bacteria contained in plaque are well-protected against being easily removed from the teeth during usual activities. The plaque then enables bacteria to survive on the surface of teeth and forms a culture medium for them. The only way to remove dental plaque is by proper tooth cleaning. If the plaque stays on a spot for more days, it can develop into a tartar by absorbing minerals from saliva and the tartar can be removed only by a hygienist or dentist.
Treatment of dental caries
Dental caries usually forms in pits and fissures around the necks and between teeth.A method of its removal is chosen depending on the location of the caries and the consideration of our dentist. The caries is removed from the healthy tooth tissue by dental instruments and the space is then filled with filling materials which reconstruct the original shape and function of the tooth.
Composite filling is today the most popular way of treating dental caries, mainly thanks to the cosmetic effect of these fillings. Modern composite fillings are suitable for the frontal, visible section of teeth as well as for lateral teeth. Well-made filling is almost indistinguishable from the adjacent dental tissues. Thanks to continuous research the mechanical and abrasion resistance of new composite materials is constantly improving. If the patient wants to have this type of filling for many years, very good dental hygiene is essential.
Amalgam has been used in dentistry since the 19th century, thus experience with amalgam is long and abundant. Precise dosage in capsules, machine preparation and a contactless application of amalgam enable a very good condensation into the cavity, good modelling and polishing of the cavity. An advantage of a well-made amalgam filling is long-term resistance and stability in the patient’s mouth and together with a regular oral hygiene also a minimal risk of a secondary caries.
Glass-ionomer cement is another “white” filling material. Compared to composite, it cannot imitate the colour so well and at highly strained places it does not last so long. Its major advanatge, however, is a high content of fluorine which is released for many years and effectively protects the adjacent teeth against caries. This makes it an ideal material especially for fillings in primary teeth.