No one likes finding a cavity on their trip to the dentist. Unfortunately, cavities are one of the most common tooth problems dentists encounter on a day to day basis.
Cavities can be difficult to detect as the early stages show few signs or symptoms. However, let a cavity persist long enough and it will lead to soreness, plain, root canals, and even tooth loss. That leads many to wonder: what causes cavities? What can I do to prevent them in the first place?
Below are some answers to these common concerns, tips on keeping the cavities at bay, and where to get dental help.
What is a Cavity?
Cavities are the result of bacteria in your mouth creating tooth decay. This leads to holes in your tooth. Depending on the type and placement of these holes, your cavity will be one of three types:
Smooth Surface Cavity
These cavities are the easiest to treat and are found on the smooth surface of your tooth enamel. As these cavities are slow to develop, they often do not create holes in your teeth like one of the more common cavity types.
Pit and Fissure Cavity
These cavities develop on the chewing surface of the teeth, often forming along the grooves of back molars. While the early phases of these cavities can be fixed easily, the longer they persist they deeper they burrow into the tooth. Left long enough, Pit and Fissure cavities can require a crown or root canal to fully remove the extent of the decay.
Most commonly seen in individuals with receding gumline or gum disease, these are cavities that develop at or on the root of the tooth.
What treatment you need for your cavity varies on its severity and type. While root cavities often require a root canal, smooth surface cavities are often fixed with in-office fluoride gels.
How a Cavity Begins
Plaque is the rough substance you feel on your teeth that goes away after brushing.
Plaque is formed by a chemical process that goes on in your mouth. When leftover food particles are not properly brushed away, they mix with bacteria and your saliva, producing acid and plaque that sits on your tooth.
The longer this substance sits on your enamel, the more it erodes the surface. Over time, this causes small holes on the surface of your teeth, leaving a perfect spot for the formation of decay. The longer this decay sits, the further down into your tooth it burrows. The end result is a cavity that can go so deep, it affects the pulp of your tooth causing an infection.
At the final stage of decay, the cavity affects the jaw bone supporting your tooth. The end result is anything from a severe infection to a tooth abscess– both of which are painful for the individual and likely need extensive dental care to resolve.
Commons Causes of Cavities
Poor oral hygiene is the most common cause cavities. While improper brushing is the most common culprit, there are several other factors that contribute to tooth decay as well:
- Foods and drinks that have a high sugar content causes bacterial build-up, leading to tooth decay and cavities
- Eating or drinking foods with high acid content (such as citrus) erodes enamel over time, making it easier for cavities to form
- Receding gumlines and other gum diseases which expose the root of the tooth. Since the roots are not protected by enamel, there is no barrier between the bacteria amd your tooth
- Improper and/or infrequent brushing, especially after eating, snacking, or drinking
- Absence of fluoride products
The best treatment for a cavity is prevention. In fact, practicing good oral health is usually enough to keep the cavities at bay. Make sure to brush and floss regularly (using a fluoride toothpaste) in addition to getting regular checks at the dentist.
This is pretty simple. All you have to do is to be consistent in your oral care and always be diligent in tending to your teeth and gums. Be mindful of what you eat and always rinse your mouth thoroughly after a meal or snack.
If you want extra protection from cavities, eat healthily. There are foods that are teeth-friendly, including fresh fruits, dairy products and vegetables. Lessen your consumption of sweetened drinks and avoid frequent snacking, especially if the food you eat contains lots of sugar. Doing these will prevent cavities and tooth decay.
Symptoms of a Cavity
Cavities show no symptoms on the onset but become severe over time. That said, it might be time to schedule an appointment with your dentist if you notice any of the following:
- Sharp pain when eating to drinking foods that are sweet, hot, or cold
- Pain when biting
- Visible pits or discoloration on the surface of the tooth
Nothing Replaces the Dentist
The best way to prevent tooth decay is to brush your teeth twice a day and visit the dentist for proper check-up and cleaning twice a year. This will help detect any dental problem as early as possible. If you experience tooth pain or any symptom, make sure that you visit the dentist soon. Don’t wait for the problem to get worse.
Always follow your dentist’s advice. Eat healthy and observe proper oral hygiene and care. For dental care trusted in the East Valley since the 1980s, come to East Valley Dental. We will help prevent cavity build-up and restore the overall health of your teeth and are just an appointment away.