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Tooth Decay

Tooth decay, known formally as dental caries, is a serious health problem affecting children, teens, older adults and even infants with teeth. If you notice any tiny holes or dark spots on your teeth surfaces, schedule a call with our Campus Dental team to prevent further damage to your enamel (hard outer layer of your teeth).

Over the last several decades, there have been vast advances in dentistry to ensure tooth decay is prevented. This work has involved the three-pronged strategy of discovery, innovation, and prevention – and produced one of the major public health success stories of the 20th century.

Yesterday

  • Few people were spared the ordeal of losing teeth, often early in life. The combination of tooth decay and periodontal diseases left 17 million people aged 45 and older — about three out of 10 Americans — with none of their natural teeth. In fact, the most common cause of WWII draft rejection was too few teeth because of tooth decay. Until the 1970s, the cause of tooth decay continued to be a subject of debate, with some believing dietary deficiencies were the culprit and others focusing on oral bacteria. This uncertainty made effective prevention strategies difficult, if not impossible, to create. Moreover, brushing one’s teeth each day was a fairly recent hygienic step forward in dental care, reportedly popularized by returning soldiers from World War II.
  • The NIH completed the first water fluoridation study that established the benefits of fluoride in fighting tooth decay. Several years would pass before fluoride, the mainstay of modern prevention strategies, would become a common ingredient in water, toothpaste, and other products.

Tooth decay was considered an irreversible disease process — once a cavity started, the only remedy was to drill out the decay and fill the tooth with a restorative material.

Today

Tooth decay is no longer the national epidemic it was a few generations ago. Millions of American children now have little or no decay, and total tooth loss or edentulism is now much less common. Without research progress in the fight against dental caries and periodontal diseases, there would be an additional 18.6 million Americans age 45 and older with none of their natural teeth.

Prevention is now the mantra in American dentistry. In addition to improved products to fight tooth decay, more people benefit from preventive dentistry, including fluorides and dental sealants to prevent decay. Compared to previous years, these techniques have made it possible for millions of people to keep their natural teeth for a lifetime. It is estimated that from 1979 through 1989 alone, the American public saved more than $39 billion in dental expenditures due to the power of prevention. Since the 1950s, the total federal investment in NIH-funded oral health research has saved the American public at least $3 for every $1 invested.

Tomorrow

  • New technologies will further prevent tooth decay. Research is underway to develop powerful imaging tools that can detect the earliest demineralization of tooth enamel. These tools will allow the application of special solutions to remineralize the tooth and reverse early decay.
  • Advances in DNA sequencing produced vast gene databases for many of the bacteria that cause tooth decay. These bacterial blueprints now allow scientists to identify specific genes essential to the decay process. It may be possible to directly target these genes and inactivate the ability of these bacteria to cause decay in the future.
  • The bacteria that cause tooth decay live in complex communities called biofilms. Great strides have been made in learning how bacteria communicate with one another within this biofilm. By jamming the communication signals among the bacteria, it may be possible one day to disrupt the biofilm and end the threat of tooth decay.


Without treatment, dental cavities can lead to severe toothache, infection or even tooth loss. Routine dental visits and proper brushing and flossing habits can prevent you from developing tooth decay.

Visit any Campus Dentist Clinic near you today! Our team will examine your teeth and gums for any signs of cavities and make recommendations based on your individual needs.

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