The continuum of dental caries--evidence for a dynamic disease process

J Dent Res. 2004;83 Spec No C:C39-42. doi: 10.1177/154405910408301s08.


The eventual outcome of dental caries is determined by the dynamic balance between pathological factors that lead to demineralization and protective factors that lead to remineralization. Pathological factors include acidogenic bacteria, inhibition of salivary function, and frequency of ingestion of fermentable carbohydrates. Protective factors include salivary flow, numerous salivary components, antibacterials (both natural and applied), fluoride from extrinsic sources, and selected dietary components. Intervention in the caries process can occur at any stage, either naturally or by the insertion of some procedure or treatment. Dental caries covers the continuum from the first atomic level of demineralization, through the initial enamel or root lesion, through dentinal involvement, to eventual cavitation. The dynamic balance between demineralization and remineralization determines the end result. The disease is reversible, if detected early enough. Since demineralization can be quantified at early stages, before frank cavitation, intervention methods can be tested by short-term clinical trials.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cariostatic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Dental Caries / physiopathology*
  • Dental Caries / prevention & control
  • Dental Enamel / physiopathology
  • Dentin / physiopathology
  • Disease Progression
  • Humans
  • Tooth Demineralization / physiopathology
  • Tooth Remineralization


  • Cariostatic Agents