Tooth Decay: Caries Risk Assessment

Dental caries is the scientific name for the process that leads to tooth decay. A Caries Risk Assessment can help you better understand your risk of tooth decay.

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Tooth decay  is the cause of cavities, pain, tooth loss and infection. It is the main reason why people seek dental treatment such as fillings, root canal treatment, extractions, and other costly, complicated dental procedures. But here's the good news: caries — the process that leads to tooth decay — is a totally preventable disease and early caries can be reversed with early intervention.


At the National Dental Centre of Singapore (NDCS), we not only treat the effects of the caries disease, such as cavities, pulp death, infection and more, but we also help you identify the risk factors contributing to the progress of your disease. We will then able to customise a caries management programme to help you control the disease more effectively.


If you wish to know more of your risk for caries, a simple Caries Assessment Test (CAT) can be carried out. Prevention is better than cure and in the case of dental caries: prevention is certainly more cost-effective, less time-consuming and best of all — pain-free!


What Does the Test Comprise Of?

In order for us to prevent dental caries, we must first understand that it arises from a complex interaction of bacteria and sugar on our teeth over a period of time. Sugar may come from various food sources, and not just sweets. In addition, caries formation is affected by numerous factors such as saliva, diet, oral hygiene habits, and even lifestyle.


Thus, every individual will have a different predisposition towards dental caries. Once a basic dental examination is done, our dentists will be able to carry out the CAT by providing you with: 

• Comprehensive education on the process of tooth decay

• Clinical and radiographic assessment of the caries activity level of each tooth in your mouth

• Diet analysis

• Saliva analysis to assess whether your saliva is healthy and able to adequately protect your teeth

• Plaque analysis to determine its bacteria and acidity levels

• Dental prophylaxis


These tests are quick and painless and will help us identify the factors predisposing you to caries disease. With these results, a preventive strategy tailored to your needs will be designed. The strategy will include:

• Modifications to lifestyle and/or prescription of safe therapeutics for home use

• Introducing a tooth brushing method tailor-made for you

• Incorporating remineralisation therapies, such as putting concentrated flouride on your teeth to control or reverse early caries lesions

• Starting painless, minimally invasive treatment such as sealing the deep grooves on the chewing surfaces of teeth, if necessary


Am I A Suitable Candidate for The Test?

Anyone may take the CAT. If your answer is yes to any of these questions, a CAT may help:

• Do you have a past history of fillings, extractions, and complex dental work?

• Do you have new cavities detected or existing fillings that need to be replaced at each recall visit?

• Do you regularly consume soft drinks and sweets?

• Are you wearing braces or partial dentures?

• Do you have a history of or are currently undergoing radiation therapy?

• Have you been diagnosed with gum disease or are being treated for the condition?


When Is A Good Time to Do the Test?

CAT may be carried out at any stage of your treatment at NDCS. However, to receive the maximum benefit and to allow for sufficient time for review visits, it is best to request for the test to be done after your very first dental check-up. Our staff will be glad to assist you.


How Do I Prepare for The Test? 

You will be instructed to record all foods, drinks and medication taken within a three-day period using the Diet Diary forms provided. Bring this Diet Diary on your CAT visit. On the day of you CAT visit, do not:

• Eat, drink, smoke or brush your teeth one hour before the appointment time

• Use any antimicrobial mouth rinse three hours before


Please inform our staff if you have flouride treatment or took antibiotics within two weeks before the test date as your CAT may need to be rescheduled if this is the case.


Keep in mind that early tooth decay can be reversed — understanding your risk for caries is half the battle won!


The best results are achieved when patients are committed to follow the prevention strategies drawn up between the dentists and themselves. Caries can recur at any stage in your life, even after this test. However, partnering responsibly with an oral care professional tremendously improves the chances of it becoming an irreversible disease.




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