What is Tooth Decay?

Caries or tooth decay, with the typical causes of toothache and dark discoloration of the teeth, is one of the most common infectious diseases in Europe. Tooth decay is caused by bacteria that settle around the teeth and attack the enamel. Especially uncleaned teeth that have sugary food residues between the corners are particularly popular with caries bacteria.

What is tooth decay?

Development of caries up to the typical toothache.

Tooth decay is one of the most common diseases in industrialized countries. Almost everyone is affected by this disease at least once in their life. The upper and back teeth are much more likely to be affected by tooth decay; the onset of the disease also increases at a certain age. Children between the ages of four and eleven as well as men and women between the ages of 55 and 65 often suffer from this dental disease. See AbbreviationFinder for abbreviations related to Tooth Decay.

Basically, however, tooth decay is a disease that can occur at any age and can affect any tooth. Adequate oral hygiene and dental care can already help to prevent tooth decay. The right brushing technique is just as important here as regularly changing the toothbrush, namely at least every three months. After brushing your teeth, don’t forget to rinse your mouth with mouthwash for at least 30 seconds. Of course, regular visits to the dentist and a tooth-healthy diet with little sugar are also important so that tooth decay does not occur in the first place.


In most cases, tooth decay is caused by bacteria that settle on the teeth and damage the enamel here. However, many more factors are responsible for the development of tooth decay. Not only does the tooth substance of an individual play a decisive role, diet can also be responsible for the onset of the disease. Food containing sugar in particular promotes the development of caries; these in connection with bacteria on the teeth offer the best conditions for caries to settle.

In addition, the amount and composition of human saliva can play a role in the development of tooth decay. An increased amount of saliva causes the food to be transported away better, giving harmful bacteria fewer chances to spread.

Symptoms, Ailments & Signs

At the beginning of the caries infestation, the infection often proceeds without noticeable symptoms. The so-called initial caries can occur without any visible signs. In advanced stages, caries leads to visible cavities in the teeth, as the substance is broken down by the metabolic products of the bacteria. It is also possible that a tooth is hollowed out.

The holes are usually dark in color. In the case of severe caries, a tooth can also be lost completely. If the remaining tooth is not removed by a dentist in such a case, a dark stump remains. Visible holes and dark discolorations do not always form on the chewing surfaces of the teeth. Tooth decay can also develop on the inside or between the teeth.

In addition to the visible symptoms, caries can lead to a number of other complaints. This includes toothache, which can vary in severity. Permanent toothache is also possible. The bad breath can also persist after brushing your teeth or come back shortly after brushing your teeth.

Teeth affected by tooth decay can be extremely sensitive. For example, they react more strongly to heat, cold or the consumption of certain foods. The sensations range from an increased perception of the stimulus or a pulling to severe pain. Bad breath may also occur as a result of tooth decay.

course of the disease

If the disease tooth decay is not treated properly, in the worst case not only the enamel is attacked, but possibly also the tooth nerve.

In the worst case, this can lead to the loss of the affected tooth. In the early stages, tooth decay is usually noticeable through light or brownish areas on the teeth, the so-called tooth decay spots. Later, these can become dark and even black.

At this stage of the disease, caries is already painful; At this point at the latest, a dentist should be consulted as soon as possible. The loss or loosening of existing fillings can be another indication of existing tooth decay.

A side effect of caries, which is observed by many patients, is the pain sensitivity to hot, cold or sweet foods.


Tooth decay occurs when oral hygiene is neglected, allowing bacteria to eat into the tooth. The tooth is decomposed by the bacteria, resulting in a hole in the tooth. Of course, this picture is fraught with various complications that can be eliminated exclusively through medical treatment. In many cases, tooth decay causes severe and long-lasting toothache that can only be eliminated by a visit to the dentist.

Anyone who leaves this clinical picture without any treatment exposes themselves to a great risk. The bacteria will then continue to decompose the tooth, so that the pain will also increase significantly. It is not uncommon for inflammation to develop in this context, which forms directly under the tooth. It can even lead to the development of an abscess.

An abscess is a cavity filled with pus. If the bacteria in it get into the human bloodstream, there is even a risk of blood poisoning. In the very worst case, there is an acute danger to life if this complication remains untreated.

The following therefore applies: caries can also cause various complications if the visit to the doctor is put off. Complications can only be avoided or recognized early and treated explicitly through medical treatment.

When should you go to the doctor?

People who suffer from any form of toothache should see a dentist as soon as possible. Since spontaneous healing only occurs in exceptional cases, it is advisable to see a doctor as soon as you feel pain. If the affected person suffers from hypersensitivity in the mouth when eating hot or cold food, there are irregularities that should be clarified. If you experience a pulling or painful feeling when consuming sweet or sour foods or liquids, you need to see a doctor.

If the symptoms spread to surrounding teeth or the jaw, or if they increase in intensity, dental treatment is required. Otherwise, the affected person is threatened with tooth loss or a permanent denture. If there is an accumulation of food residues in the interdental spaces, cavities are noticed in the teeth or an existing denture becomes loose, a doctor should be consulted. If people in the immediate vicinity notice an unusual bad breath in the affected person or if unusual discolouration of the teeth occurs, a doctor should be consulted.

Chalk-like stains on the teeth are of particular concern. If the person concerned feels a light tapping on the tooth as painful or very unpleasant, this is an indication of a caries disease. If an abscess forms, a doctor’s visit is also necessary.

Treatment & Therapy

The treatment of caries depends on how far the disease has progressed. In the case of deeper tooth defects, the affected area is treated with the drill and the caries is removed in this way. Here, a local anesthetic is usually applied to the nerve of the tooth.

One possibility that has become increasingly popular in recent times is what is known as laser technology; with this the patient does not feel any pain. The holes created by drilling are closed with special tooth fillings, usually with amalgam.

The dentist usually recognizes tooth decay by looking into the mouth. X-rays also provide information in the early stages. If the caries is already more advanced and the dental nerve is affected, the treating doctor will try to fill the root.

Outlook & Forecast

With today’s medical possibilities, caries has a good chance of being cured. As soon as caries is diagnosed, treatment takes place immediately afterwards. The dentist removes the affected areas in the mouth and tries to heal the disease by professional tooth cleaning and protection against an immediate new infestation of the bacteria. The possibilities of protection, however, are not permanent. The next time you eat, new bacteria can get into your mouth, which can only be removed by cleaning your teeth properly.

Without dental care, the affected person cannot be cured. If caries has already broken out, the possibilities of self-help are not sufficient to achieve recovery. The bacteria multiply in the mouth and cause further damage to the teeth. Immediately after the tooth decay has been removed by the dentist, the patient is responsible for optimizing his or her tooth cleaning immediately. This is the only way to prevent re-infestation.

The causes of the disease are discussed during treatment and should be taken seriously by the patient. A change in behavior is absolutely necessary in order to achieve permanent freedom from symptoms. Otherwise, new bacteria will form in the mouth, which in turn will attack and damage the teeth. In the worst case, a tooth is lost.


Caries aftercare is also the basis for successful prevention. The aim is to protect the teeth from renewed carious destruction. A sugar-free diet is the basis, which is flanked by brushing with the right technique and at regular intervals.

Professional tooth cleaning once or twice a year is particularly important in this context. It also removes hard plaque, called tartar, and soft plaque. Areas where the toothbrush does not clean thoroughly, such as the spaces between the teeth or the gum line, are recorded. The PZR is prevention and aftercare at the same time for caries and periodontitis.

Brushing your teeth after meals is very important. Care should be taken to use a brush that is not too hard and does not attack the enamel. Dental floss, interdental brushes and the use of an oral irrigator after thorough cleaning are suitable for getting the best possible coverage of the interdental spaces. Toothbrushes should be changed regularly to keep brushing effective.

After cleaning, it is best to rinse it with hot water and then dry it so that bacteria that cause tooth decay do not multiply on it. Of course, every person in the household needs their own toothbrush in this context. Children are to be introduced to the cleaning technique in an age-appropriate manner. Parents should carefully control this for their children’s dental health.

You can do that yourself

If you suspect caries, you should first make an appointment with your dentist. Acute pain can be relieved by cooling until the examination. If there is actually a disease of the tooth enamel, the only option is usually medical treatment of the caries.

At the same time, increased oral hygiene should be ensured. In addition to the usual recommendations – brushing your teeth carefully at least twice a day for three minutes – comprehensive interdental care is a good idea. Regular tooth cleaning by the dentist is even better. Sealing of the teeth is also recommended for children.

In order to prevent tooth decay from spreading, the diet should also be changed: fruit and vegetables instead of sweets, and mineral water instead of lemonade. Smokers should stop smoking, while coffee drinkers should switch to unsweetened tea. In addition, various home remedies help against tooth decay. Ground nutmeg, which is applied to the hole in the tooth with a little clove oil and kills the bacteria, has proven effective. Salt water and garlic have a similar effect. Clove oil and applications with anise or chamomile help against the pain.