What Is the Difference Between Cavities, Decay & Caries?

Portrait Man with toothache isolated grey wall backgroundGood dental hygiene is important to keep teeth whole and healthy. The idea is to prevent dental caries. Caries is the disease that leads to tooth decay and cavities. That is simple enough to say, but what are caries, tooth decay, and cavities? What do they do to your teeth, and how are they prevented? Here is a look at what they are and how they are related.

What Is Caries

Caries is a disease process. It occurs when bacteria in the mouth feed on sugar in the food you eat and produce acids that leach minerals from your teeth. As the mineral levels in the tooth decrease, a white patch appears where the tooth enamel is getting weaker. This is the beginning of tooth decay. At this point the damage might be reversible with fluoride.

What Is Tooth Decay

Tooth Decay is the breakdown of the structure of the tooth. As the decay progresses tooth enamel is compromised and the dentin exposed to air and bacteria. At this point a filling may be the only way to prevent more damage to the tooth. You want to stop decay as soon as possible to prevent more serious problems.

What Is a Cavity

A cavity is the last step before the tooth decays completely. When a white patch forms on a tooth it is on the way to forming a cavity – which is simply a hole in the tooth. Once the white patch begins to form a depression in the tooth, a cavity is forming. Eventually the cavity will reach the pulp in the center of the tooth and begin to damage the nerve. The nerve damage is what causes a toothache. Eventually the nerve will die and the tooth will begin to rot and an abscess may form. Once the tooth begins to hurt a root canal may be necessary.

Is Caries Preventable

Caries is easy to prevent:

• Brush at least twice a day, preferably with fluoride toothpaste.
• Avoid sugary drinks and foods. Eat nutritious snacks.
• Visit the dentist twice a year for a checkup and cleaning.

If you already have a dentist and get visit regularly, that’s great. If you do not have a dentist, or your last visit was a year or more ago, call us today and make an appointment. Contact us at 203-612-5529.

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