Dental caries is the medical term for tooth decay or cavities. It is caused by acid erosion of tooth enamel. Many different types of bacteria normally live in the human mouth. They accumulate (along with saliva, food particles and other natural substances) on the surface of the teeth in a sticky film called plaque. Plaque forms especially easily in cracks, pits or fissures in the back teeth; between teeth; around dental fillings or bridgework; and near the gum line. Some of the plaque bacteria convert sugar and carbohydrates (starches) in the foods we eat into acids. These acids dissolve minerals in the surface of the tooth, forming microscopic pits or erosions that get larger over time.
The damage can occur anywhere the tooth is exposed to plaque and acid, including the hard outer enamel on the tooth crown or the unprotected root of the tooth that has been exposed by gum recession. Caries can penetrate the protective enamel down to the softer, vulnerable dentin (main body of the tooth) and continue through to the soft tooth pulp and the sensitive nerve fibers within it.
Periodontal disease is a quiet disease that begins with little or no symptoms. It is caused by bacteria that surrounds the teeth and enters the gums. The immediate condition is known as ‘gingivitis’. The gums become irritated, inflamed and often bleed. If not properly treated, the condition worsens into “gum disease”. Noticeable symptoms now appear. They include: Bad Breath, Gum Recession, Bone loss, abscess, and eventual tooth loss. Your mouth is a portal to your body- modern research shows a strong link between periodontal disease with stroke, heart disease, diabetes, and respiratory disease.
Many people lose teeth due to caries or trauma. The spaces left can make an individual self conscious of their smile and in some instances cause some shifting in the dentition. There are multiple treatment options to replace missing teeth.
Minor infections that develop eventually can become abscesses. If you have facial swelling, notice a bubble appear on your gums, or see purulence (pus); you are likely to have an infection. Have your dentist evaluate the situation and determine a treatment plan as early as possible to avoid further complications.