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What is dental caries?

Dental caries is a demineralization of the tooth surface caused by bacteria.
Some stages are illustrated below.

stages of dental caries


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  1. A tooth surface without caries.
  2. The first signs of demineralization, a small "white spot" has been formed (initial caries, incipient caries). It is not yet a cavity, the surface is still hard. It is not calculated as "D" (Decayed) according to WHO criteria. With proper measures, the caries process can be halted here and even reversed.
  3. The enamel surface has broken down. We have got a "lesion" with a soft floor. It is now calculated as a "D" tooth or surface.
  4. A filling has been made, but as can be seen, the demineralization has not been stopped and the lesion is surrounding the filling. It is sometimes called "Secondary caries" but in fact, it is usually the "same" disease that is in progress. The tooth is both "F" (Filled) and "D" (Decayed). In caries indices it is normally calculated as a D tooth only.
  5. The demineralization proceeds and undermines the tooth.
  6. The tooth has fractured - an effect of a process which could have been stopped at an early stage!


Development of a Caries Lesion

Dental Caries is a disease in which minerals of the tooth are dissolved into surrounding bacterial plaques and to saliva. A caries process going on for some time may result in a Caries Lesion. It is sometimes called White Spot Lesions, Initial Caries or Incipient Caries. If the process is not halted, the enamel surface nay brake, resulting in a Cavity.

The Process of Demineralization and Remineralization
A detail of a tooth A detail of a tooth (to the right = enamel). It is covered by plaque, which consists mainly of bacteria. Plaque is often found close to the gum, in between teeth, in fissures and at other "hidden" sites.
Demineralization Demineralization:
When sugar and other fermentable carbohydrates reaches the bacteria, they form acids which start to dissolve the enamel - an early caries lesion occurs due to loss of Calcium and Phosphates
Remineralization Remineralization:
When sugar consumption has ceased, saliva can wash away sugars and buffer the acids. Calcium and Phosphates can again enter the tooth. The process is strongly facilitated by fluorides
A CAVITY occurs if the Demineralization "wins" over the Remineralization over time


Caries risk assessment

Senast uppdaterad av Magnus Jando