Dental caries

Assoc Prof Craig Hacking and Dr Henry Knipe et al.

Dental caries are cavities in teeth ('caries' is both the singular and plural form). They are very common and can lead to serious morbidity. 

Clinical presentation

Tooth decay is asymptomatic in its early stages. Once the enamel has been breached and the dentin is exposed then people may experience toothache (odontalgia). Toothache can become severe when the pulp cavity becomes exposed. Patients may also experience pain on eating, bad breath (fetor oris) or taste disturbances.



Focal enamel and dentin demineralization result in cavity formation. There are multiple theories for their pathogenesis but contributing factors include a combination of a sugar-rich diet, anatomy, oral cavity microbiome, poor dental hygiene, hyposalivation and time 1,2.

Dental caries are often categorized into 1:

  • occlusional: affect the chewing surface
  • approximal: occur between teeth

Article information

rID: 52069
Tag: refs, refs
Synonyms or Alternate Spellings:
  • Teeth caries
  • Dental cavities
  • Dental cavity
  • Tooth decay
  • Dental decay
  • Carious teeth

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Cases and figures

  • Case 1
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  • Case 2
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  • Case 3
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  • Case 4
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