What are Dental Caries?

05 Jan 2021  |  No Comments

Close up image of dental caries

The term “dental caries” may not be very common, but is really just another way to describe tooth decay. Dental caries is an infectious disease that, when left untreated, can lead to dental cavities (or holes in the teeth).

These cavities compromise the tooth’s health and structure, but the good news is that caries can be prevented with good oral hygiene practices. In this guide from Marsfield Dental Clinic, we’re covering the basics of dental caries; who is most at risk, how can it be prevented, and how is it treated?

Who is most at risk of dental caries?

Dental caries is the second most common disease in the world – coming in just after the common cold. So, of course, this statistic suggests that many of us are at risk of contracting the infection.

The most at-risk groups are children and adolescents, as well as middle-income countries, where sugar consumption tends to be high. It’s also common in baby teeth, and shouldn’t be ignored just because adult teeth will develop later on. The disease is cumulative, so can build up in adults, making cases worse when left untreated.

A clear positive relationship has been found between sugar consumption and the development of dental caries.

How to help prevent tooth decay

Good oral hygiene is the most important step to preventing tooth decay. To minimise your chances of developing caries, it’s recommended that you:

  1. Reduce your sugar intake
  2. Brush teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste
  3. Use floss or an interdental cleaner
  4. Drink tap water, which contains fluoride in most communities
  5. Avoid frequent snacking
  6. Ask your dentist about antibacterial treatments if you’re more susceptible to tooth decay
  7. Visit your dentist every 6 months

How caries are treated

An X-ray is required to confirm the presence of dental caries. How this is treated depends on the progression of the caries, with mild cases being treated with minor dental work and an improvement in oral hygiene. Fluoride treatments are often used to help with remineralisation and improve early signs of caries.

If caries have already transitioned into cavities, the tooth’s structure will need to be restored. This could be done with fillings or crowns, if a significant amount of the structure has been compromised. In some cases (where the tooth is too vulnerable to infection), root canal therapy may be required.

If the tooth is untreatable, and too much of the structure has gone, then it may need to be removed. Your dentist will be able to discuss options to replace the tooth, such as implants and dentures.

Book an appointment

The team at Marsfield Dental Clinic in Sydney are passionate about maintaining the long-term health of your mouth, and we recommend visiting us regularly so we can catch early signs of caries and other problems before they get worse. Your dentist can also provide you with tailored advice on keeping your mouth healthy in between visits.

Book an appointment online, or get in touch by calling (02) 9887 1961 or emailing

"The information in this website may be simplified in nature and does not replace professional advice. Risks and consequences may apply to any treatment. Always seek a second opinion when considering complex treatment. A referral to a specialist may be required in certain situations. Quotations can only be given after proper clinical assessment and so pricing details cannot be given over the phone."

COVID 19 Update - Oct 2021

 All our members of staff - Dentists and supporting assistants - are fully vaccinated. We are a COVID-safe practice and we are open for all general dental treatment needs and services.