Tooth decay conditions and syndromes.

Children and seniors can be especially at risk for decay syndromes. / Baby-bottle tooth decay, Root caries, Gum-line cavities, Chronic dry mouth (xerostomia).

At different points in their lifetime, a person may be at increased risk for certain types of cavity-related problems.

A) Children and adolescents.
B) Adults (especially seniors).

The tooth decay pattern usually displayed with baby-bottle caries syndrome.

The decay pattern typically displayed with baby-bottle caries syndrome.

Baby-bottle tooth decay.

Baby-bottle caries refers to a pattern of tooth decay that occurs in infants and preschoolers who are allowed to nurse from a bottle containing a sugary beverage, either frequently, or else for prolonged periods of time (i.e. napping, sleeping), or both.

a) Only specific teeth are affected.

In most cases, this condition displays a characteristic decay pattern.

  • The upper front teeth are affected the most. These teeth may have very extensive decay.
  • The child's back teeth are frequently affected too.
  • The lower front teeth are usually spared from cavity formation. That's because they are protected somewhat from exposure to the sugary drink by the nursing position of the child's tongue.

cavities using:

b) Why does the decay form?

There is nothing special or unique about baby-bottle syndrome. It's simply a case of cause and effect.

  • A sugar supply (the drink) is available to the child's oral bacteria frequently, or else over extended time periods.
  • This excessive exposure simply tips the tug of war between demineralization and remineralization in favor of the former, and therefore cavity formation.

c) What can you do to prevent baby-bottle tooth decay?

Here are some of the things that you can do to reduce your child's risk for experiencing this problem:

  • Anticipate (unless you specifically know otherwise) that anything you place in a child's bottle could be a sugar source. Breast milk, milk, formula, and fruit juices are all sources of dietary sugars.
  • Never allow your child to nurse for long periods of time, or fall asleep with, a bottle that contains a sugary beverage.
  • Never give your child a pacifier that has been dipped in honey or any other type of sugary liquid.
  • Frequent breast feeding can lead to baby bottle caries syndrome too.

Root caries / Gum-line tooth decay.

Tooth crowns are enamel. Tooth roots are made up of dentin.

a) Dental anatomy as it pertains to this problem.

A tooth's enamel covering ends right at its gum line. This enamel-covered portion of the tooth is termed its "crown."

The remaining portion of a tooth, the part that lies below the gum line, is its root.

b) A tooth's root is "softer" than its crown.

The root portion of a tooth is not covered by enamel. Instead, it's primarily composed of another mineralized tissue called dentin.

Since dentin contains less mineral content than enamel, it's less "hard," and therefore more easily, and more quickly, damaged by tooth demineralization (cavity formation).

Tooth decay can form on a tooth's root surface.

Gum recession exposes root surfaces. As a result, the roots are placed at greater risk for cavities.

c) How gum recession can increase your risk for decay.

When gum recession occurs, a tooth's root becomes "exposed" (meaning it's no longer fully covered over by a protective layer of gum tissue and bone).

  • Since root surfaces are relatively "soft" (at least when compared to enamel).
  • And because they are often exceedingly difficult to clean thoroughly (and therefore dental plaque is frequently present on their surface).

Decay may form on them relatively easily, thus putting a person through a period of cavity-prone years.

e) What can you do to minimize your potential for gum recession and root cavities?

  • Brushing too forcefully, or brushing back and forth with a "sawing" motion, can cause gum tissue to recede. So can brushing with a toothbrush whose bristles are too stiff.
  • Gum disease (periodontal disease), as well as those procedures required for its treatment, typically result in some amount of gum recession. Be diligent with your oral home care so you don't develop this condition.
  • Bruxism (a habit of tooth clenching and grinding) can create changes with teeth that result in gum-line recession.

Xerostomia / Chronic dry mouth.

Xerostomia refers to a state of diminished salivary flow (reduced saliva), the result of which is a chronically dry mouth.

One problem associated with this condition is that a lack of saliva can tip the balance between demineralization and remineralization in favor of the former, and therefore cavity formation.

a) What role does saliva play in cavity prevention?

Saliva plays a very important role in fighting tooth decay. Here is a list of some of the benefits that it provides:

b) What causes xerostomia?

Advanced age.

A person's salivary glands tend to work less effectively as they age. And as a result, the quantity (and composition) of their saliva may change.


Oral dryness can be a side effect of some types of medication. This includes: Antihistamines (allergy and cold medications), antidepressants, blood pressure agents, diuretics, narcotics and anti-anxiety medications.

Tips for preventing tooth decay -

Fact - Having a chronically dry mouth can increase a person's risk for cavities.

Cavity prevention suggestions :

  • Since salivary flow decreases when we sleep, be certain to brush and floss thoroughly before going to bed so to insure that your mouth is as plaque-free as possible.
  • Drink and rinse with water frequently throughout the day, or when up at night.
  • Salivary flow increases when we chew food, so chewing sugarless gum can be a good way to boost a person's output of saliva.

    The sugar substitutes found in sugarless gum are not readily fermented by the bacteria that cause cavities and therefore will not promote the formation of acids that cause decay. Xylitol-sweetened products have the advantage that it provides an anti-cavity effect on its own (see button link above).



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