Dental Caries (DC), is one of the most important global oral health burdens and is largely preventable, but remains the most common chronic disease among children and adolescents. DC is not age specific but may have a negative impact on the quality of life of young children and their parents.
Dental caries are usually accompanied with bad breath, poor oral hygiene and bad aesthetics. The consequences of untreated dental caries on the quality of life include: Discomfort or toothache Weight loss Decreased appetite Chewing difficulties Sleeping difficulties, Diminished growth, Worsening of nutritional status Changes in the behavior and cognitive development of preschool children Untreated dental caries may also require emergency dental visits and/ or hospitalization.
While poor dental status among children has all the negative impacts above mentioned, it may also have a socially stigmatizing effect on adolescents, adults, and elderly people affecting social acceptance. Dental caries, can significantly impact your quality of life. The presence of cavities can cause various physical, emotional, and social discomforts, leading to a diminished overall well-being. From a physical standpoint, untreated cavities can result in toothaches, sensitivity to hot or cold foods and drinks and difficulty chewing. These symptoms can make it challenging to enjoy meals and may affect a person’s nutrition and overall health.
Additionally, the pain and discomfort associated with cavities can interfere with sleep, concentration, and daily activities, affecting one’s productivity and overall happiness. Emotionally, dental cavities can cause embarrassment and self-consciousness due to the visible decay, stained teeth, or missing tooth structure. Individuals may feel hesitant to smile or speak openly, which can affect their self-esteem and confidence in social situations. The aesthetic impact of cavities can also contribute to feelings of insecurity and a negative body image.
Potential Caries Risk Factors:
People often don’t realize they have cavities until they become painful or food particles get stuck between teeth. This is why regular dental check-ups, at least every six months, are crucial to identify any issues early and have them treated.
How are dental caries treated?
Once identified, dental cavities can be treated using composite restorations, inlays, or onlays which are tooth-colored and blend in seamlessly with the natural appearance of teeth. If the cavity has progressed deeper into the tooth and is close to the pulp or involving the pulp, the tooth may require a root canal treatment, even if the tooth is not painful. In cases where the tooth is non-restorable, it will need to be removed. Teeth that have undergone root canal treatment are restored in function with a dental crown, which provides the necessary strength to withstand the pressures of daily use.
Prevention and Management
As caries is a persistent and advancing condition, the risk of developing cavities can vary between dental visits, with children being particularly susceptible. Therefore, it is crucial to incorporate caries risk assessment as a routine component of every dental appointment. This assessment helps determine the level of risk an individual may have for developing cavities, allowing for appropriate preventive measures to be implemented. After considering the assessment of potential risk factors associated with cavities, the patient’s risk level for developing caries can range from minimal to very high. Once these risk factors have been identified, it is crucial to initiate a personalized management approach. This approach takes into account the specific needs and circumstances of the individual to effectively address and mitigate their risk of developing cavities.
Management strategies for Caries:
While dental caries (DC) can generally be prevented through regular dental home care practices such as daily brushing with fluoride toothpaste, flossing, and using mouthwash, along with routine dental visits and controlling risk factors like a diet low in refined carbohydrates, cases with higher risk may require additional diagnostic tests (microbial analysis, salivary tests) and management strategies. Before deciding on surgical management for caries, preventive interventions (non-surgical) are more accurately referred to as caries management.