Diagnosing Tooth Decay (Caries)

Published on April 20, 2012 by

Clinically, a dental caries lesion (also called a cavity) occurs when a hole appears on the tooth surface. However, when this is observed, dental caries has proceeded to the late stage. A clinically noticeable lesion, termed a white spot (which may not be detectable to the naked eye), may precede the carious lesion. Not all visible white spots are due to the initiation of the decay process. In addition, interproximal (between) tooth surfaces may only be visible with the use of a dental X-ray (radiograph), and the decay can go unnoticed in these areas until it is too late in the caries process .
 
Pain is the chief complaint of the patient that causes them to seek dental treatment. This usually occurs when the decay in the dentin layer of the tooth approaches the tooth pulp which contains a nerve. Pain can be intermittent or continuous, and dull or excruciating.
Diagnostic tests for dental caries are non-invasive. This is due to the fact that the teeth are exposed to the environment and can be visualized by looking into oral cavity (mouth). During a clinical examination, a dental explorer is used dental professionals to help diagnose dental caries. When the explorer is placed into a cavity it will usually sticks into the decayed area. Dental radiographs (X-rays) are used to help the dental professional diagnose caries that cannot be viewed by the naked eye. Microbiologic diagnoses for Sm/lactobacilliinfections are rarely sought. Primarily, it is acute pain that brings the patient to the dentist, which is almost always relieved by a dental restoration or extraction. Conventional dental therapy is based on response to symptoms; therefore knowledge of an underlying Sminfection would not change the treatment. The most accurate way to confirm a diagnosis of dental caries is by a histological examination; however this would require tooth extraction.

Filed under: Tooth Decay

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