Caries, or decay, is always bad news for a tooth. Tooth decay is the softening of your tooth enamel and refers to the damage tooth structure caused by acids that are created when plaque bacteria break down sugar in your mouth. If this loss of mineral from the enamel is left untreated, a cavity, or hole in the tooth, can eventually occur. Without treatment, these holes can grow larger over time and may even destroy the whole tooth.
The plaque acids then eat away at the next layer of the tooth (dentin), and this is when you usually start getting pain, as the dentin is close to the nerve of the tooth. Hot and cold food and drink will then aggravate the nerve, which causes pain.
But hidden caries is possibly worse than having a normal cavity. We can quite easily see a normal cavity, as it has a distinct appearance, and our dental probe will get stuck in the decayed enamel. Below is a picture of a normal cavity and subsequent filling. The first picture shows the decay in situ; there are darker areas in the fissures, and there is a white, sticky residue where the enamel has broken down. The second picture is where we have entered the tooth to remove the decay, and you can see the dark decayed areas are now into the second layer of the tooth, the dentin. The third picture shows how we’ve removed all the decayed material, leaving all the lovely, healthy tooth in place. The final picture shows the filling that we have put back into the tooth. Much better!
Hidden caries, however, is exactly that; hidden. The decay will be near the surface of the tooth but will have caused little or no damage to the enamel surface itself. But sometimes, there may also only be a small indication of a problem on the surface of the tooth, such as a brown mark or the enamel may appear cloudy.
Caries can also be hidden in the way that we can see that there is caries in the tooth, but there may be much more than we initially thought, and the decay may go further into the tooth than we anticipated. It may look like a small filling, but the tooth may end up needing a large filling because of the amount of decay.
The only way we can really find hidden caries is with an x-ray, and this is why we take them routinely every 2 years to check for hidden issues like this. Obviously, we also check bone levels, existing restorations and the general health of your mouth as well with these x-rays.
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If you have any questions or would like to make an appointment, please do not hesitate to call us on 0121 550 6958.Back to Blog