Types of Dental Caries

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Dental caries is an extremely common human malady, with approximately a third of all people having some amounts of caries on their teeth. Almost all adults are affected at least once in a lifetime. It is one of the leading causes of tooth loss and unnecessary pain. While we have written a lot about caries prevention, it is time to get a bit more technical and tell you something about the types and classification of caries and the treatment methods your dentist will use depending on the severity of the disease. Generally, the sooner the caries is spotted, the less work your dentist will have, and the less risk there is of losing your affected teeth. Such knowledge is also useful to help you recognise that even if you cannot visually detect caries, it does not mean it is not there. That is why it is extremely important to visit your dentist regularly.

The most popular dental caries classification system used today by dentists worldwide is the one created by one of the founders of modern dentistry in the USA, Green Vardiman Black, and is conveniently called the G.V. Black classification system. In this system, dental caries is classified in six categories depending on its location on the tooth. The system originally comprised five categories, while the sixth was added later.

The first category represents pit and fissure caries on the chewing surface of the tooth. The fissure becomes susceptible to caries since it is often not covered by enough enamel and represents a weak spot for the development of caries. These surfaces are also really difficult to clean due to the nature of tooth anatomy. Even though these surfaces represent just shy of 15 per cent of tooth surface, about a half of total caries occurs there. In children, the occurrence is near 100 per cent.

Other classes are types of smooth surface caries. There are three types of such caries. One is proximal caries and is considered extremely difficult to detect visually or with a dental explorer; that is, without an x-ray. It occurs in between two adjacent teeth. It is classified as class II when it occurs on posterior teeth, i.e. molars and premolars, and as class III or IV when it occurs on anterior teeth, i.e. canines and incisors. When the chewing surface is not affected, it is classified as class III, and when it is, then it is a class IV caries.

Class V is very easily detected and is most often a product of a bad diet and even worse dental hygiene. It occurs on smooth surfaces of teeth near the gingiva. They are most often a consequence with plaque build-up. Still, due to their tricky position, they can be difficult to properly restore.

The sixth type has been added later by others and pertains to caries affecting molars, premolars and cuspids. It is confined to cusps of teeth (raised surfaces), as opposed to fissures in class I.

Caries is also classified according to its rate of progression. It is considered acute when it is quickly developing and chronic, which takes a lot of time to develop. Secondary caries is a term given to caries that reoccurs at a location where it has already been treated. It is opposed to incipient caries, which is a type that occurs on a location without previous history of caries. Caries can also become arrested, which means that the affected area has successfully remineralized before it caused a cavity. It is generally important to spot and treat caries early, as it spreads faster through dentin (the inner part) than enamel (the outer part).

Treatment of caries depends on its severity. If caries is present, but there is no cavity, it can be arrested and remineralized with better diet and proper oral hygiene. If the carious lesion has cavitated, then the dentist will have to remove the affected area and place a restoration. There are various materials available, most common of which are amalgam and white fillings. Inactive, arrested lesions do not need to be treated. The earlier caries is treated, the less the costs involved. The damage to the tooth is also reduced.


We hope this is reason enough to visit your dentist regularly. You have learned about the types of caries and how it is much easier to treat if spotted early. Save yourself a headache and set up an appointment with our renowned cosmetic dentist Dr. George Harouni at his Las Vegas, NV (Henderson, NV) office at 702-434-9464.

Call our Las Vegas, NV (Henderson, NV) office. Why wait until tomorrow for a smile you can have today?

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