Dental caries, also known as tooth decay or a cavity, is a disease where bacterial processes destroy hard tooth structure. These tissues gradually break down, producing dental caries (cavities, or holes in the teeth). If left untreated, the disease can lead to pain, tooth loss, and infection.
A person experiencing caries may not be aware of the disease. The earliest sign of a new carious lesion is the appearance of a chalky white spot on the surface of the tooth, indicating an area of demineralization of enamel. This is referred to as a white spot lesion, an incipient carious lesion or a “microcavity”
Personal hygiene care consists of proper brushing and flossing daily. The purpose of oral hygiene is to minimize any etiologic agents of disease in the mouth. The primary focus of brushing and flossing is to remove and prevent the formation of plaque or dental biofilm. Plaque consists mostly of bacteria.
As the amount of bacterial plaque increases, the tooth is more vulnerable to dental caries when carbohydrates in the food are left on teeth after every meal or snack. A toothbrush can be used to remove plaque on accessible surfaces, but not between teeth or inside pits and fissures on chewing surfaces.
When used correctly, dental floss removes plaque from areas that could otherwise develop proximal caries but only if the depth of sulcus has not been compromised. Other adjunct oral hygiene aids include interdental brushes, water picks, and mouthwashes.