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Dental Caries (Tooth Decay)

The decay of a tooth, in which it becomes softened, discolored, and/or porous.

PubMed Health Glossary
(Source: NIH - National Cancer Institute)

About Tooth Decay

Tooth decay (also called cavities or caries) is caused by bacteria, sweet foods and drinks, and a lack of oral hygiene. It can harm your teeth and cause a lot of pain, and may even result in loss of teeth.

Today tooth decay is much less common than it was just a few decades ago. That is mostly due to better oral hygiene and more people using fluoride toothpaste, which goes to show that there are a number of things you can do to improve the health of your teeth and prevent cavities.

Symptoms

White or brown spots on your teeth are the first sign of tooth decay. If it gets worse, holes develop on the surface of the teeth (cavities), and if the deeper layers of the teeth are affected, tooth decay can also harm the nerves in the teeth and the root. Then the teeth become sensitive and painful — especially when eating anything cold or sweet. Tooth decay can cause so much damage to the teeth that it may no longer be possible to save them... Read more about Dental Caries

What works? Research summarized

Evidence reviews

One topical fluoride (toothpastes, or mouthrinses, or gels, or varnishes) versus another for preventing dental caries in children and adolescents

Topical fluorides such as mouthrinses and gels do not appear to be more effective at reducing tooth decay in children and adolescents than fluoride toothpaste.

Topical fluoride (toothpastes, mouthrinses, gels or varnishes) for preventing dental caries in children and adolescents

The use of fluoride toothpastes, mouthrinses, gels or varnishes reduces tooth decay in children and adolescents.

Ozone therapy for the treatment of dental caries

There is no evidence that ozone therapy can reverse or stop tooth decay.

See all (156)

Summaries for consumers

One topical fluoride (toothpastes, or mouthrinses, or gels, or varnishes) versus another for preventing dental caries in children and adolescents

Topical fluorides such as mouthrinses and gels do not appear to be more effective at reducing tooth decay in children and adolescents than fluoride toothpaste.

Topical fluoride (toothpastes, mouthrinses, gels or varnishes) for preventing dental caries in children and adolescents

The use of fluoride toothpastes, mouthrinses, gels or varnishes reduces tooth decay in children and adolescents.

Ozone therapy for the treatment of dental caries

There is no evidence that ozone therapy can reverse or stop tooth decay.

See all (45)

More about Dental Caries

Photo of a child

Also called: Cavities, Dental cavities, Holes in the teeth

Other terms to know:
Dental Enamel

Keep up with systematic reviews on Dental Caries:

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