A cavity is a common dental condition that can happen to anyone. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 92% of adults aged 20-64 have had at least one cavity in their permanent teeth. On the other hand, children aged 6-19 have a cavity rate of about 20%.
If you’ve been told that you have a cavity, chances are you’re feeling anxious and confused. What exactly is a cavity, how did it form, and how can it be treated? Keep reading to find out the answers to these questions and more.
Causes of Cavities
Various factors, including poor diet, inadequate oral hygiene, and certain medications, can cause cavities. Let’s take a closer look at each of these causes.
The first cause is poor diet. Eating sugary or starchy foods increases the risk of cavities because these foods feed the bacteria in your mouth that produce acid. This acid wears away at your enamel, leaving it vulnerable to decay. Eating sugary or acidic foods can also make your teeth more susceptible to cavities because the sugar and acid create an ideal environment for bacteria to thrive in.
The second cause is inadequate oral hygiene. Brushing twice a day and flossing daily are essential for keeping your gums healthy and preventing tooth decay from forming between teeth. Additionally, regular dental checkups are important for maintaining good oral hygiene as they allow dentists to identify any potential problems before they become serious.
The third cause is certain medications that can reduce saliva flow in the mouth. Saliva helps wash away food particles and neutralize acids produced by bacteria in the mouth. Reduced saliva production makes plaque forming on teeth easier, leading to cavities over time. If you’re taking medications that reduce saliva flow in your mouth, going to the dental clinic near you twice a year can help prevent cavities. Your dentist can provide tips for keeping your mouth healthy and can identify potential issues before they become serious.
Symptoms of Cavities
Cavities often start small and painless but can get bigger over time if left untreated. But if you experience pain or discomfort from your cavities, it could be because they have become more prominent or reached your dentin (the layer under your enamel). Here are the common symptoms:
Toothache or Discomfort
One of the most apparent signs of a cavity is toothache or discomfort when consuming hot or cold foods, sweets, or drinks. If your child complains about this pain, you should have them checked out immediately. This is especially true if the pain persists after brushing with fluoride toothpaste or using an over-the-counter medication to ease toothache pain.
Visible Holes in Teeth
Another sign that your child might have a cavity is visible holes in their teeth. You may also notice dark spots on their teeth that could indicate decay. In some cases, you may even see brownish stains on their teeth that could be caused by bacteria buildup due to poor oral hygiene habits. Whatever the case, it’s essential to take any visible signs seriously and ensure your child gets professional care as soon as possible.
Sensitivity Around Teeth
In addition to physical signs of cavities, other indicators like sensitivity around teeth and gums could point to an underlying issue like a cavity. If your child experiences this kind of sensitivity regularly when eating certain foods or brushing their teeth, then it’s likely time to visit the dentist for further examination and treatment if necessary.
Treatments for Cavities
When treating cavities, several options are available depending on the severity of your condition. The most common treatment is a filling—a composite material that is used to fill in and seal off any holes in your teeth created by bacteria or decay.
If a filling isn’t enough, your dentist may suggest an inlay (a custom-made material used to replace lost tooth structure) or an onlay (a similar treatment that involves replacing only part of a damaged tooth). In more severe cases, a crown may be necessary, which consists in placing a cap over the entire affected tooth.
Risks Associated with Cavities
If left untreated, cavities can lead to numerous health issues, such as gum disease and tooth loss. Additionally, bacteria from cavities can spread throughout your body and put unnecessary strain on your immune system, potentially leading to further health complications.
Of course, this is all avoidable if you take care of your teeth properly; brushing twice daily with fluoride-based toothpaste and flossing regularly will help keep cavities at bay and ensure healthier teeth overall!
The Bottom Line
Regardless if you already have one or two cavities or have not yet developed any at all, understanding what causes them and taking steps towards preventing them is key in keeping your teeth healthy for years to come! A combination of regular dental checkups and proper oral hygiene care will help ensure that your smile stays bright and healthy for many years ahead!