To say that cavities are prevalent is an understatement. While many children experience cavities, if they are located in baby teeth that are meant to fall out, the damage can be minimal. However, decay found in permanent teeth can be much more problematic. The key to prevention is to understand the causes of cavities and how to combat those causes.

What is a Cavity?

A cavity is a hole that forms in your teeth and can grow larger and more serious over time. The cavity itself is a stage of tooth decay and if left untreated can create bigger problems including total loss of the tooth.

The Causes

  1. Lack of proper care
    Good oral hygiene is your first line of defense against cavities. This should include regularly brushing your teeth at least twice a day and flossing daily. In addition, you should see your dental professional every six months so that they can remove any hard to reach areas and perform a thorough cleaning. Without proper care, plaque can form and build up creating cavities.
  2. Sugary foods and drinks
    While sugary sweets are delicious they contribute to the formation of plaque and cavities. Foods that cling to your teeth such as sugar are more problematic than those that are easily cleaned away by brushing or saliva. If you indulge in frequent snacking, you are exposing your teeth to acids that can be damaging over time.
  3. Lack of fluoride
    Fluoride plays an important part in the health of your teeth. It is absorbed into your tooth enamel and helps repair it by replenishing the minerals that make your teeth hard. Fluoride can be found in some toothpastes and water.
  4. Eating disorders
    Bulimia and anorexia take a toll on your entire body and your teeth are no exception. Frequent exposure to stomach acid can erode the enamel on your teeth. These issues can also change your body’s ability to produce saliva, which deprives you of a natural way of cleaning your teeth.
  5. Bottle feeding
    While bottles can be very comforting for your little ones, they are also a contributing culprit leading to cavities. If you give your baby a bottle with milk or juice at bedtime, sugar will stay on your baby’s teeth throughout the night, creating an ideal environment for plaque to build up.
  6. Plaque
    The above causes are all potential problems because ultimately they can lead to plaque. Plaque is the beginning of tooth decay and future problems. Plaque is a sticky film made up of bacteria that forms on your teeth. If plaque is not regularly removed, it builds up and leads to more destructive issues.

Symptoms of a Cavity

How do you know if you have a cavity? There are many symptoms that can indicate a newly formed cavity. If you have sensitivity to hot or cold, spontaneous bursts of tooth pain, holes that you can see in the teeth, stains or pain when biting down; you may have a cavity. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, make an appointment with our dental professional so you can receive an accurate diagnosis and any necessary treatment.

How to Treat Cavities

The appropriate treatment will depend on the severity of your cavity. If you have a small, newly formed cavity, your dentist may recommend a professional grade fluoride treatment. The fluoride can be used to harden and repair the tooth.

If your cavity has developed further, a filling may be needed. If it is determined that you need a filling, your dentist will clean out the decay from the cavity and then use a filling, which can be composed of several different materials to fill the hole that is left behind. Fillings help strengthen the damaged tooth and prevent further decay from occurring.

When cavities have progressed so far that fillings can’t be used, a crown may be the best option. Your dentist will remove the damaged portion of your tooth and fit a crown over the remainder of the entire tooth. The crown doesn’t repair the tooth but is sealed to protect it from any further damage.

In extreme cases, if the tooth is so damaged that it can’t be saved with any of the above options, an extraction may be necessary. An extraction occurs when the dentist removes the tooth entirely. This eliminates the risk of the decay spreading to your other teeth but also leaves an open space which allows your other teeth to shift. If you have teeth extracted, you should discuss alternate tooth options with your dentist. Dentures, bridges or dental implants may be viable options to help fill the open space left behind after an extraction and protect your remaining teeth by keeping them in place.

Cavities are quite common. If you find yourself experiencing any of the symptoms listed above that may indicate a cavity, contact our office immediately. If a cavity is diagnosed early, the treatment may be quite simple. However, if left untreated, cavities can cause painful and expensive problems. Our staff is happy to answer your questions, make you as comfortable as possible, and help you achieve the healthiest smile possible.