What is tooth decay (dental caries)?

Dental caries is a disease of the hard dental tissues, principally caused by microbes, that mainly affects the tooth enamel and secondly the dentin and cementum. In simple words, they are caused by the acids that are produced when the microbes of the dental microbial plaque break down the sugars contained in the foods. This always happens when the dental microbial plaque IS NOT PROPERLY REMOVED AND, OF COURSE, WHEN THE CONSUMPTION OF SUGARY FOODS IS FREQUENT. Thus, this is the origin of the acids that will gradually destroy the teeth!

What are the characteristics of dental caries?

The basic characteristic of dental caries is its proliferation potential and, if they are not removed in their initial stages, dental caries will expand towards the pulp (nerve), which will result to pain, inflammation and eventually... pulp necrosis. In this case, the tooth will require endodontic (root canal) treatment (resection).
They are insidious! Silent at their initial stages, as you cannot see the damages in the teeth and you do not feel any pain! Only when dental caries are advanced enough, “holes” are formed in the teeth and you may feel pain!
However, if you treat the lesions at an initial stage you can stop their devastating action and avoid even tooth fillings.


What is the percentage of dental caries in children and adults?

According to the World Health Organization, almost 100% of adults and 80% of children are affected by dental caries.


What is the percentage of dental caries in Greece?
-  42.8% of children under 5 years old have decayed teeth or teeth with fillings.
- 71% of teenagers under 15 years old have an average of two teeth with fillings and at least one tooth which is affected by dental caries.
-  Adults 35-44 years old have an average of seven teeth with fillings and have lost five teeth.




How can we prevent dental caries?

In order to prevent the development of dental caries or to stop them while there is still time, some simple steps are just enough:


  1. Regular visits to the dentist. Are they necessary?
    It is particularly important that we visit our dentist every six months (twice a year), in order to have our teeth examined and cleaned. Only the dentist can detect dental caries in their very early stages and recommend the appropriate treatment. We must know that, if we leave a decayed tooth in our mouth for a long time period, either because we do not visit the dentist, or because we do not pay importance to the fact that he said to us that the particular tooth requires a filling, a simple filling could become a very large one over time and subsequently the tooth decay could reach the pulp, which will begin to present necrosis and eventually endodontic (root canal) treatment-resection will be required, in order to save the tooth from extraction. A lack of regular visits to the dentist will eventually cost very much, and much more time will be required than when we are consistent. An important factor is also the psychological one, as, when the problems in the teeth begin, such as pain, abscesses, inflammations in the gums, the deposition of colorants and extractions, we feel very bad. This happens because very often, the restoration may not have the desired aesthetic result, or may be too expensive for us to afford.


    Brushing of the teeth with toothpaste for 2minutes,at least twice a day (morning-evening). It is very important because the frequent as well as correct brushing, which is equally important, does not allow the deposition of microbial plaque on the teeth, which will prevent the formation of dental caries.



Every time we consume foods that contain sugars, acids that destroy our teeth are produced. By avoiding sugary snacks (chocolate, candies, cheesy puffs, etc.) and beverages between main meals, the exposure of teeth to acids is reduced and time is given for the lesion to heal, always in the initial stages.

Constantinos Laghios, Dental Surgeon - Endodontist, M.S., Elina Terzibassi, Dental Surgeon