ABSTRACT

Enamel is
the outer or first layer and Dentin, the middle or second layer of any tooth.
If the cavity or decay is restricted to enamel or dentin, a restoration, be it
any, silver, composite, alkasite etc. is good enough to restore it. If the
middle or second layer, dentin is slightly more involved, it is always
preferable to give a liner and/or a base below the restoration. If the decay or
bacteria traverses through to the third layer, the pulp a.k.a. the nerve
tissue, then the tooth might need a root canal therapy. The pulp of the tooth contains
nerve fibers along with many smallest arteries, veins, lymph tissue along with
some connective tissue. When the pulp seems to have become infected or
inflamed due to a deep cavity, the blood supply to the tooth may be lost and
the tooth pulp may have died in all probability. This usually causes some pain
and pressure while chewing, eating or drinking hot or cold foods and liquids
along with a nagging pressure on biting down or sometimes, just a lack of
pressure on the tooth even with full force. This stage is the trickiest for any
clinician; to decide between the stages, whether the tooth is actually infected
or just inflamed. The decision at this stage has to be based on experience,
clinical judgment and your own instinct rather than any other clinical finding.
This situation often lands up the clinician in a dilemma of whether to go for
Root Canal Treatment or restore the deep cavity with a proper protection
underneath with a good liner followed by base and then the restoration
following a proper sandwich technique. The unfortunate aspect here is that in
the initial stages of tooth decay, there won’t be any pain. Hence, complacency
creeps in and the patient delays or postpones the visit to the dentist. When an
excruciating or sometimes even more than little pain happens, the patient runs
to the dentist and the radiograph, clinical scenario and the symptoms sometimes
make it a Catch 22 situation for the clinician – to go for a Root Canal
treatment or to restore it with the conventional means of a sandwich
technique. 

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INTRODUCTION

Enamel being the outer or first layer and Dentin, being the
middle or second layer of any tooth are vital in protection of tooth from any
kind of thermal, chemical and physical insults. The arrest of a tooth by decay
or a cavity at a deep level of the tooth warrants a decision as the symptoms
itself at that stage isn’t alone a guiding force for us; the clinicians.
Whether the decay or bacteria has actually traversed through to the third
layer, the pulp a.k.a. the nerve tissue or not, is the most pertinent question
to answer. In most cases at this stage, the patient might be experiencing
a sensation to cold initially and when he turns up eventually at the clinic, he
might be occasionally getting sensation on taking hot beverages, which
sometimes is an indication of the progression of the decay. In some cases, the
pain in the tooth is on lying down and the patient is having a severe pain
followed by a swelling. Many a patient turns up
at this last stage, to get relief from the pain. At that stage, the patients
are even ready to get the offending tooth removed to get rid of the painful
scenario.

CAUSES of TOOTH DECAY

Cavities
are caused by tooth decay which is a process that develops slowly but steadily
due to following reasons:

1.         
Plaque: Dental plaque is a
clear sticky film causing a coating on the teeth. Plaque formation is due to
carbohydrates primarily which contains sugar and starch and is further
aggravated by not removing the layer from the tooth. When the carbohydrates are
not cleaned off from the teeth, bacteria start colonizing the teeth quickly and
harden with salivary salts leading to a further hard plaque or tartar a.k.a.
the calculus. Tartar makes plaque more difficult to remove and creates an
environment for bacteria to colonize further leading to more plaque formation
from leftover food particles.

2.         
Recurrent Plaque attacks: The acids in plaque cause
the demineralization of the tooth’s enamel by causing erosion. This erosion
causes tiny openings or holes in the enamel which is usually the first stage of
a cavity after demineralization. Once the enamel is worn away which is actually
a very long and a tough process and in some stages, taking a time of 3.5 – 4
years on the occlusal surface of the tooth, the bacteria reach the second layer
of the tooth, the dentin. Dentin is much softer than enamel and less resistant
to acid attacks. Dentinal tubules, the micro-openings of the dentin that
directly communicate with the pulp of the tooth causing hyper-sensitivity.

3.         
Pathways of Destruction: If the patient is not aware or cautious
at this stage, the bacteria and acid continue to march
through the teeth by moving to the inner most layer a.k.a. the pulp that
contains nerves and blood vessels. The pulp becomes swollen and irritated from
the bacteria, becoming scathed from attack and causing pain. Swelling and discomfort
can even show up on the face of the patient as a result of this sometimes.

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