What Are Dental Caries?

Dental Caries is a decay or cavity of your tooth. Many people expect to have fillings or lose teeth over their lifetime but with simple daily care of your teeth and regular dental checkups your teeth can last you a lifetime.

What causes dental caries?

Tooth decay or cavities are caused by specific types of bacteria. They produce acid that destroys the tooth's enamel and the layer under it, the dentin.

Many different types of bacteria normally live in the human mouth. They build up on the teeth in a sticky film called plaque. This plaque also contains saliva, bits of food and other natural substances.

You will notice that plaque forms most easily in certain places including, cracks and pits in your teeth, grooves in the back teeth, between teeth, around the gum line and near tooth fillings or bridgework.

The bacteria turn sugar and starches in the foods we eat into acids. The acids dissolve minerals in the hard enamel that covers the tooth's crown (the part you can see). The enamel erodes or develops pits. They are too small to see at first. But they get larger over time.

Acid also can seep through pores in the enamel. This is how decay begins in the softer dentin layer, the main body of the tooth. As the dentin and enamel break down, a cavity is created.

If the decay is not removed, bacteria will continue to grow and produce acid that eventually will get into the tooth's inner layer. This contains the soft pulp and sensitive nerve fibres.

Tooth roots exposed by receding gums also can develop decay. The root's outer layer, cementum, is not as thick as enamel. Acids from plaque bacteria can dissolve it rapidly.

What do dental caries look like?

Early stages of decay when holes have not occurred appear as white spots. It is very important that decay is detected in this early white spot stage.


As the decay increases cavities (holes or pits) appear, the dental caries become darker


As the decay advances the cavities may enter the dentin and tooth pulp become darkly stained and you risk loosing your teeth.


Tooth decay can be halted and even reversed with proper dental care.


If you catch tooth decay early enough you can even halt or even reverse the damage. Don’t allow early decay to progress to cavities which need fillings, here are some of the best ways to reduce dental caries when you care for your teeth at home are:

  • Reducing the frequency of sugary or acidic foods or drinks consumed
  • Brushing twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste
  • Flossing Teeth Daily
  • Chewing sugar-free gum after meals

Every person regardless of their age needs to supplement their home tooth care with professional care from a dentist.

The team at Butler Dental can help you care for your teeth, we would much prefer to prevent damage to your teeth from happening and use the following to help:

  • Frequent brief dental visits to monitor progress, every 6 months is recommended.
  • Scale and clean your teeth to remove hardened plaque that will not be removed by brushing and flossing at home.
  • Monitor decay that has formed at early stages.
  • Professional application of fluoride when needed
  • We may be suggest that you have special resin sealants placed on un-decayed vulnerable tooth surfaces, to protect them from future decay, these are called fissure seals.
  • Routine management of other dental work you may have had done previously e.g. filling, bridgework or crowns.
  • When appropriate we can recommend products that can help re-mineralise your teeth at home to help make the enamel strong again.

We not only help look after your teeth we will help you look after your gums as unhealthy gums receded and expose softer parts of your teeth to acid attack.

Make an appointment for a dental check up, teeth scale & clean.