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Dental Caries


What are dental caries?

Dental caries are also called cavities. Cavities are caused by bacteria. The bacteria mix with carbohydrates from foods and create acids. The acids break down areas of enamel, which covers the outside of a tooth. This creates a small hole in the tooth called a cavity.

Tooth Anatomy

What increases my risk of dental caries?

  • Poor tooth care
  • Not seeing your dentist every 6 months
  • Gastric reflux
  • Not enough fluoride in water or not using dental products with fluoride
  • Not enough saliva in your mouth, caused by certain treatments or medicines

What are symptoms of dental caries?

You may not have any symptoms if your dental caries have just started to form. When dental caries reach deeper parts of your tooth, you may start to feel pain. The pain may get worse when you chew or eat hot or cold foods.

How are dental caries diagnosed?

Your dentist will look at your teeth to check for signs of dental caries. Your dentist may also use x-rays to find dental caries.

How are dental caries treated?

  • Fluoride treatments may be given during dental visits, or you may use products with fluoride at home. Fluoride can be found in the form of a mouth rinse or gel. You may buy fluoride with or without a dentist's order. Your dentist will tell you what kind of fluoride to buy and how to use it.
  • A filling may be placed in your tooth after the decayed portion is removed. The filling may help to protect your tooth from more decay.

How can I help prevent dental caries?

  • Brush your teeth at least 2 times a day with fluoride toothpaste.
  • Use dental floss to clean between your teeth at least once a day.
  • Rinse your mouth with water or mouthwash after meals and snacks.
  • Chew sugarless gum after meals and snacks.
  • See your dentist regularly every 6 months for dental cleanings and oral exams.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • You have severe pain in your tooth or jaw.
  • You have swelling in your jaw or cheek.

When should I contact my dentist?

  • You have a fever.
  • Your tooth pain gets worse.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

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