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Rampant Caries: What Are They?

Even with excellent oral hygiene, anyone can get dental caries (cavities) in their lifetime. However, rampant caries can stem from various factors, such as poor diet, mouth pH, root recession, and weakened enamel. Anyone of any age is susceptible to cavities, but luckily some treatments can restore your oral health and get your smile back on track.

What Are Dental Caries?

You can classify dental caries as one of three ways based on where they occur in the mouth.

  1. Interproximal caries - On the sides of the tooth or in between teeth
  2. Pit and fissure caries - In the deep grooves on the biting surface of the teeth
  3. Root caries - On the root surface of the tooth or teeth, found most often when a patient has gum recession

Dental caries are irreversible tooth decay where the hard structures of the tooth demineralize from acids in the mouth. The bacteria in plaque on your teeth and gums produce acids that attack tooth enamel. "Rampant caries" is a condition characterized by wide-spread and rapidly growing cavities and is a term used to describe a mouth with dental caries present in more than ten teeth. With the proper education and good oral care practices at home, dental caries is preventable.

Caries in Various Age Groups

In early childhood, toddlers can develop rampant caries if they drink formula, milk, or low-pH fruit juice in a bottle or sippy cup right before bedtime. When a child's mouth isn't cleaned before bedtime, the low pH allows the oral bacteria to feed on the sugars in the drink all night long. Demineralization thrives in environments where acid is present to attack the teeth. This process has been termed "baby bottle tooth decay."

Adolescents can be affected too if they drink low pH, high-sugar drinks, like soda, sports drinks, or energy drinks. Adolescent caries present a challenge to dental professionals because they often involve permanent teeth. This condition can affect a teenager's confidence in smiling and socializing and can also cause pain and discomfort that prevents the patient from attending school or work. In adolescents, cavities may be a sign of poor nutrition. Teens can improve their oral health by decreasing the amount of sugar in their diet and picking up healthy habits, such as chewing sugar-free gum, drinking plenty of fluoridated water, and improving their oral care routine at home.

Adults and the elderly can also experience rampant caries, especially those affected by dry mouth. When saliva production decreases due to aging, radiation therapy, or certain medications, the mouth's ability to fight demineralization diminishes because saliva acts as a natural cleaner of the mouth. Dry mouth creates a perfect storm for cavities to appear and progress deeper into the tooth.

How Do You Treat Rampant Dental Caries?

You can treat dental caries with restorative treatments that include removing the diseased portion of the tooth, then placing a filling to strengthen the tooth. If you lose too much of the tooth to rampant decay, the dentist may choose to place a crown on the tooth to protect it. The type of restoration depends on how much of the healthy tooth remains and the tooth's location.

When it comes to taking care of your teeth, the best course of action to avoid rampant dental caries is prevention. Maintaining a good oral care routine with daily flossing and twice-daily brushing with fluoride toothpaste is the best way to ensure your teeth are set up for success. However, if your rampant dental caries gets ahead of you, there are plenty of treatment options available. Talk to your dentist and they will work with you to find the best course of action for your smile.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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