Overview

Caries is the chemical dissolution of the hard tooth structures - enamel and dentin - by the acid created as the bacteria in dental plaque ferment carbohydrates. The development of caries is dependent on the interplay between processes that cause demineralization of tooth enamel, and those which cause remineralization: Only when factors favor the high acidity that leads to demineralization does caries occur. In this section, the dynamic process of demineralization and remineralization is discussed, paying particular attention to tooth hard tissue structure, the role of acid production by cariogenic bacteria, and the critical pH at which tooth enamel begins to dissolve. The role of acid-reducing bacteria, saliva, and fluoride in tooth hard tissue remineralization will also be explained.