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Sample Research Paper: Dental Caries
Dental caries is a disease that individuals often disregard because of its minimal health risk. Individuals, especially in poorer areas, would rather spend their hard-earned money on food and rent than on proper oral hygiene and dental care. Along with careless food choices and lack of awareness, the risk of dental caries increases, contributing to its status as one of the most common diseases. Understanding dental caries and the factors that cause it can help individuals who have the disease or its early symptoms. This research paper will outline the pathology of dental caries, focusing on the social factors, as well as describe preventative measures against the disease.
Dental Caries Definition
Dental caries is an oral disease that causes demineralization in the teeth structure, leading to tooth decay. The primary cause of dental caries is the behavior of Streptococcus mutans , a bacteria that naturally live in the mouth of humans. The bacteria create lactic acid from metabolized sugar, lowering the oral pH level until demineralization of dentin and enamel occurs (Rathee & Sapra, 2021; Teshome et al., 2021). As an individual continue to consume materials that allow the bacteria to create lactic acid, dental caries will persist and potentially cause other symptoms.
Dental caries can manifest in children, teens, and adults; with adolescents being the more common sufferers of the disease. According to Rathee & Sapra (2021), teens between the ages of 12 and 19 have higher rates of dental caries while the overall infection rate of the disease in humans varies from 49% to 83%. This suggests that different factors lead to the manifestation of dental caries with some being more significant in terms of demographic. Infants tend to suffer mild caries that only affects a few teeth while teens and adults can suffer from a more aggressive form of the disease.
Causes of Dental Caries
Streptococcus mutans , as mentioned earlier, is the primary cause of dental caries. High dental plaque means there is a high accumulation of bacteria, allowing for more sugar to turn into lactic acid. Since the bacteria naturally occur in the human mouth, lack of proper dental hygiene increases the risk of dental plaque accumulation and dental caries. For infants, however, Streptococcus mutans levels present in their mouth can vary depending on their mother’s bacteria level and dental hygiene (Rathee & Sapra, 2021). This indicates that while dental plaque is the primary cause of high levels of bacteria, some cases may have other contributing factors.
Since dental plaque tends to worsen over time, age can be an important factor in the manifestation of bacteria. Bashirian et al. (2018) argued that dental plaque increases with age because of various factors, such as food preferences and hygiene. This means that as an individual gets older, they develop higher risks of dental plaque which will then lead to dental caries. Ignoring dental plaque symptoms and continuous consumption of dentally-damaging products will further increase the risk of the disease.
One can argue that dental plaque and dental caries are the results of environmental factors, meaning that their causes may lean on social and economic factors than biological issues. This is most prevalent in a comparison between developed and developing countries. In developing countries, the economic situation of families is one of the main causes of dental caries while developed states experience a decline in dental caries (Bashirian et al., 2018; Hu et al. 2018). Factors like low wages and availability of facilities are issues in developing countries that increase the risk of dental caries and are often absent or have minimal effects in developed countries.
The first factor, a family’s average wage, has a direct effect on the risk of dental caries for each member. According to Tafere et al. (2018), individuals who earn less have higher risks of dental caries. Low-earners cannot afford regular dental care and services which can prevent every family member from having proper oral hygiene. This increases the chances of dental risk for both children and adults. For high-earning families, dental services are affordable which allows each member to receive proper oral care. According to Bashirian et al. (2018), elementary students who have government officials as parents tend to have more permanent teeth than other children. This indicates that the high status and income of families result in a significant decline in dental caries risk.
The availability of facilities is another significant factor and often relates to an individual or family’s location. Children living in suburban areas tend to have fewer primary and permanent teeth than those living in urban areas (Bashirian et al., 2018). Since suburban areas are far from city centers, dental services are less accessible, making trips expensive and exhausting. Tafere et al.’s (2018) study also stated that individuals in urban areas have a higher risk of dental caries than those in rural areas. In this finding, the availability of dental facilities became an insignificant factor since rural areas should have poorer access. This result may be from the dietary behaviors of the urban and rural populations. Sugary foods and fermentable carbohydrates are more accessible in urban areas and are the main contributors to the accumulation of dental plaque.
Other region-specific economic situations can also contribute to dental caries risk greatly. Bashirian et al.’s (2018) study revealed that the low fluoride concentration in Iran caused higher risks of dental caries. The standard fluoride concentration in drinking water is perfect to reduce the risk of dental caries and lower levels do not have any effect. Despite the lack of adverse effects of lower concentrations, regular consumption of water with standard fluoride concentration is effective in managing the risks. Failing to address this low fluoride concentration because of economic conditions then causes higher risks of dental caries as well as other health problems due to low concentrations.
Attitude Towards Dental Care and Hygiene
The attitude of parents and their children towards their oral health play a significant role in the managing of dental caries risk. According to Bashirian et al (2018), some parents may not pay attention to their children’s oral health until there are severe symptoms, such as intolerable pain. This leads children to receive delayed dental treatment which often results in the removal of primary and permanent teeth. Individuals, especially children, also tend to have a negative attitude toward visiting a dentist which then leads to the delayed treatment and management of symptoms (Alhabdan et al. 2018). Fear of dentists and self-assessments are often the reasons for these behaviors which individuals must overcome to reduce their risk of dental caries.
Age, as mentioned above, tends to increase the risk of dental plaque and caries, however, gender also plays a role in the development of the disease. According to Hu et al. (2018), female students have a higher risk of dental caries due to their cariogenic diets and active pursuit of dental treatment which can often result in poor assessments. There is also the early tooth eruption in girls which exposes their teeth a few years or months earlier than boys (Hu et al., 2018). Since their teeth grow earlier, oral bacteria have a longer time to accumulate in a female’s mouth, leading to higher risks of dental caries than in boys.
Effects of Dental Caries
Dental caries is a non-fatal disease and it is unlikely for an individual to develop life-threatening symptoms, especially if they consider getting oral treatment. Early symptoms include toothache, tooth decay, and abscess formation in the oral cavity (Kamran et al., 2017). These symptoms are mild and immediate dental treatment can help mitigate them. If, however, an individual leaves the disease untreated, severe complications can develop and cause pain. Untreated dental caries can result in an inflamed oral cavity which can then progress to apical periodontitis, abscesses, granulomas, cysts, osteomyelitis, and lethal complications; such as sepsis and airway obstructions (Rathee & Sapra, 2021). If an individual continues to not treat their dental caries despite severe symptoms, lethal complications can develop and risk their overall health.
Preventing Dental Caries
The preventive measures for dental caries are simple and with the Internet becoming a necessity , individuals can find authoritative sources for help. According to Hu et al. (2018) brushing twice a day using fluoride toothpaste with 1000 ppm or above concentration is one of the best ways to prevent the disease. As mentioned earlier, fluoride in drinking water helps reduce the risk of dental caries, so using toothpaste with fluoride can have direct positive effects on disease prevention. Furthermore, maintaining proper oral health behaviors, such as limiting sugar intake, using mouth rinses, using restorative materials, visiting dentists, and teaching children to brush their teeth at the age of two are great ways to reduce the risk of dental caries (Alhabdan et al., 2018; Hu et al., 2018). Most of these preventative measures against dental caries are accessible to anyone from any economic condition and so individuals should not have any problem following them.
Dental caries is a common disease that individuals can avoid through the practice of simple preventative measures. Unfortunately, factors like economic situation and attitude towards dental care act as barriers to the prevention of the disease. Poor economic conditions often lead families to disregard their oral health and focus on other important expenses. This leads to a higher dental caries rate in developing countries. Furthermore, attitudes toward dental care result in individuals avoiding treatment for symptoms. Other factors like gender, age, and the gradual accumulation of dental plaque are biological causes that individuals can only manage and not prevent. Understanding these concepts about dental caries can help individuals acknowledge the risks they are taking when they disregard their oral health as well as the simple preventatives they can take to prevent the development of the disease.
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Alhabdan, Y., Albeshr, A., Yenugadhati, N., & Jradi, H. (2018). Prevalence of Dental Caries and Associated Factors Among Primary School Children: A Population-Based Cross-Sectional Study in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Environ Health Prev Med, vol 23(60). Available at https://doi.org/10.1186/s12199-018-0750-z. Accessed May 8, 2022.
Bashirian, S., Shirahmadi, S., Seyedzadeh-Sabounchi, S., Soltanian, A., Karimi-shahanjarini, A., & Vahdatinia, F. (2018). Association of Caries Experience and Dental Plaque with Sociodemographic Characteristics in Elementary School-Aged Children: A Cross-Sectional Study. BMC Oral Health, vol 8(7). Available at https://doi.org/10.1186/s12903-017-0464-4. Accessed May 8, 2022.
Hu, J., Jiang, W., Lin, X., Zhu, H., Zhou, N., Chen, Y.,...Chen, H. (2018). Dental Caries Status and Caries Risk Factors in Students Ages 12-14 Years in Zhejiang, China. Medical Science Monitor. Available at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6007515/. Accessed May 8, 2022.
Kamran, R., Farooq, W., Faisal, M., & Jahangir, F. (2017). Clinical Consequences of Untreated Dental Caries Assessed Using PUFA Index and Its Covariates in Children Residing in Orphanages of Pakistan. BMC Oral Health, vol 17(108). Available at https://bmcoralhealth.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12903-017-0399-9#citeas . Accessed May 8, 2022.
Rathee, M. & Sapra, A. (2021). Dental Caries. StatPearls Publishing. Available at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK551699/. Accessed May 8, 2022.
Tafere, Y., Chanie, S., Dessie, T., & Gedamu, H. (2018). Assessment of Prevalence of Dental Caries and the Associated Factors Among Patients Attending Dental Clinic in Debre Tabor General Hospital: A Hospital-Based Cross-Sectional Study. BMC Oral Health, vol 18(119). Available at https://doi.org/10.1186/s12903-018-0581-8. Accessed May 8, 2022.
Teshome, A., Muche, A., & Girma, B. (2021). Prevalence of Dental Caries and Associated Factors in East Africa, 2000-2020: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Frontiers in Public Health, vol 9. Available at https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpubh.2021.645091/full#:~:text=In%20developing%20countries%2C%20the%20prevalence,of%20awareness%20about%20dental%20caries.. Accessed May 8, 2022.