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Dental Caries


People often think that dental caries is the same thing as cavities. A cavity is just a hole caused by caries, the disease that damages teeth. Many people think that cavities happen for no real reason, in any random place on a tooth, but cavities are not random at all; they are the result of damage caused by a bacterial disease that can easily be present on your teeth and all over your mouth. The infection of dental disease—that is, dental caries—will never be isolated to one place or one tooth; it attacks and weakens all your teeth at the same time. Once in your mouth, caries softens your teeth progressively until they break, usually one or two at a time, always at the most vulnerable places. When you understand these facts, you see why placing a filling in a cavity does nothing to stop the disease that caused it or the damage that this disease will now inflict on other teeth elsewhere in your mouth.
Dental caries can spread and become more damaging if particular factors, which I call perfect storm conditions, occur in someone’s mouth. Mouth conditions deteriorate as harmful bacteria feed on sugars or starches in the diet. Sugars and starches supply these bacteria with energy that allows them to multiply and produce acids, which can make the whole mouth progressively more acidic. The acidity attacks and weakens tooth enamel everywhere, but the tooth enamel that is under the most stress from biting or chewing will usually be the first place to break and form cavities in teeth.
If conditions in your mouth do not change, one cavity will soon be followed by another one. If you do not eliminate the disease that caused the first problem, more damage will occur to other teeth, and you will most likely start a never-ending series of treatments. Over time, in an unhealthy mouth, the ongoing disease attacks the new fillings. Consequently, fillings fail and need repairs, then bigger fillings and eventually root-canal treatments and crowns. In a diseased mouth, most newly filled teeth show signs of damage and need repair within five years after the original treatment. In some cases it can be less time before a new filling needs repair.

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