Can caries be transmitted through a kiss? Can oral decay be contagious?

All of Germany suffers from tooth decay: experts assume that around 98 percent of adults in this country are affected. Dr. explains how this infectious disease develops and why dentists use the drill less and less during treatment. Jochen H. Schmidt, head dentist and implantologist at Carree Dental in Cologne.

Almost all of us know caries (lat. Caries = rot, rottenness) from our own (painful) experience. There is no comparably common infectious dental disease worldwide. In addition to poor oral care, an unhealthy, sugary diet is the main cause of this disease of civilization, which is almost unknown to the Eskimos, for example. Another common name for tooth decay is progressive decalcification and consequently serious damage to the tooth enamel. If this protective layer of the tooth crown is destroyed, bacteria have an easy time of it. In the worst case, there is a risk of tooth loss.

Which teeth are most affected by tooth decay?
While the milk teeth in children are usually affected, the caries problem in adults is usually between the teeth. The reason for this may be primarily due to less than optimal dental care.

Is tooth decay contagious?
Yes, tooth decay is contagious. Therefore, parents should never lick the pacifier or baby spoon of the offspring, as this is the only way that the caries-causing bacteria can get into the child's oral cavity.

Why do we get tooth decay?
Dental caries are mainly caused by bacteria in the oral cavity. These transform sugar that we ingest with food into tooth-destroying acid. The result: holes in the teeth. What can I do? Regular brushing of teeth removes bacteria and acid, thereby considerably reducing the risk of caries.

How can you detect tooth decay yourself at home?
Regular checks are recommended. If you look in the mirror brown or white spots on the tooth enamel, this indicates caries. For this disease, decalcification of the tooth structure by bacteria is typical. Teeth that are sensitive to cold or heat can also be an indication. Ultimately, only the dentist can judge that with certainty. Incidentally, the notorious caries hole only forms at a very advanced stage.

Can the dentist stop tooth decay?
Yes, provided the therapy begins before the tooth is badly damaged or even destroyed. It is important that deeper carious spots are removed thoroughly. In the case of very deep caries, it is possible to leave the part close to the nerve. A dense filling can then ensure that the caries-causing bacteria are trapped and die.

Are there other typical caries symptoms besides pain and sensitive teeth?
Typical symptoms are unsightly discoloration of the teeth. In addition, severe inflammation and tooth loss can occur. Incidentally, dentists distinguish between two forms depending on the damage to the tooth substance: If the surface is still intact despite progressive decalcification, the doctor speaks of initial caries. With an "established caries", however, the surface is already attacked.

What does caries preventive oral care and nutrition look like?
A guarantee of permanently beautiful teeth is regular care with the right brushing technique: gently press the bristles against the teeth and then remove food residues and deposits with small, shaking movements. In addition to fluoride-containing toothpastes, the daily use of dental floss is also recommended. This is the only way to thoroughly clean the spaces in between where caries is very common. And when it comes to nutrition, it is better to use black bread and fruit than chocolates and chips. The vigorous chewing of apple or pumpernickel stimulates saliva production, leaves fewer deposits and thus eliminates bacteria.

Does caries always cause pain?
Caries is one of the most common causes of toothache. But even if there is a hole in the tooth, it does not have to happen. However, if the caries penetrates into the pulp, i.e. the dental pulp, inflammation and, as a result, severe pain develop - initially only temporarily, and finally permanently.

Are caries pain different from other toothache?
Toothache occurs in many different forms - from easy pulling to throbbing pain. The latter can indicate, for example, a dead tooth nerve or an inflamed wisdom tooth. Pain usually arises when tooth nerves are irritated.

When does a carious tooth have to be pulled?
This question can actually only be answered individually. In a nutshell, it can be said that a tooth must be extracted if it has been significantly destroyed by caries or an accident. The same applies if the bone has been loosened too much or the inflammation is so severe that root canal treatment is no longer possible.

Instead of the drill, modern caries treatment relies on painless plastic gel. Is that the solution of the future?
In fact, the relatively new caries infiltration does not require drilling. This saves the patient some pain. It is equally advantageous that with this form of caries treatment, healthy tooth substance is no longer destroyed. Unfortunately, this method is only suitable for diseases in the early stages. In the case of advanced caries or affected areas in the root area, there is still no way around the drill.

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