What is Dental Caries?
According to The American Dental Association, dental caries is defined as a “biofilm-mediated, sugar driven, multifactorial, dynamic disease that results in the phasic demineralization and remineralization of dental hard tissues.” Dental caries permanently damages teeth over a period of time. It occurs when microbial biofilm (plaque) on tooth surface converts the free sugars contained in foods and drinks into acids that dissolve tooth enamel and dentine over time. With continued high intake of free sugars, inadequate exposure to fluoride, and without regular removal of microbial biofilm, tooth structures are destroyed, resulting in development of cavities. Without treatment these cavities can grow larger over them and may eventually destroy the whole tooth.
Dental caries, also called cavities, is the most prevalent infectious disease in humans, affecting 97% of the population in their lifetime. It is one of the world’s most common health problems. The global burden of the disease study 2016 estimated that 2.4 billion people (32%) suffer from caries of permanent teeth and 486 million children suffer from caries of primary teeth. In the US, there are more than 3 million new dental caries cases each year. Cavities can affect anybody who has teeth, not just children or the elderly.
The CDC reported the following dental caries prevalence rate from the 2011-2014 survey data in the US.