What You Need to Know about Cavities
What is a cavity?
While cavities can vary in severity, there’s one thing that’s true: the sooner they are detected, the better. In a nutshell, cavities signal signs of decay in your teeth. This can be something as small as a chink in your enamel to as severe as an actual hole or portion of your tooth missing as the result of decay.
How did I get a cavity?
Cavities typically do not happen overnight. A combination of factors can come together to lead to the kind of decay that wears down your ordinarily super-strong teeth. A diet high in sugars and carbohydrates, such as breads, soda, fruits, cakes and candy can lead to cavity development. These foods can be harmful to your teeth because the sugar attracts bacteria to your mouth. In addition to feeding on the sugars left on your teeth, the bacteria can wear down your teeth as well. Over time, the bacteria interact with other acids in your diet as well as saliva to create a hard and harmful film called plaque.
Oral care is an important aspect of preventing cavities because the bacteria that cause plaque can be brushed and flossed away with careful attention to how you care for your teeth on a daily basis. However, if you ignore the importance of brushing and flossing, the plaque can build up and wear your teeth down.
Skipping out on your regular visits to your dentist also can be a contributing factor to plaque buildup and cavities. Your dentist has a whole arsenal of tools to scrape away stuck-on plaque and fluoride treatments stronger than those you can buy over the counter to strengthen your teeth. If you’re skipping out on your regular dental exams, you could be contributing to tooth decay and plaque buildup on your teeth.
What are the treatment options for a cavity?
If your physician does diagnose you with a cavity via a dental x-ray and exam, the options for repairing the tooth depend upon the cavity’s severity. For example, a smaller cavity can likely be filled using a strong material, such as a silver alloy, gold, porcelain or resin filling. Sometimes, however, the damage is more severe and this can mean your dentist must remove the diseased portions of your teeth and cover them with a crown that fits over the healthy portion of your tooth. Teeth that extremely decayed can affect all the way down to your nerve or tooth pulp. This means your dentist will likely recommend a root canal that will involve removing the damaged and decayed portions of your tooth and nerve. Your physician will seal the roots and potentially place a crown to reduce the likelihood that further damage can occur. While root canals and fillings may not be the most pleasant experience, advances in technology and approaches have been made in an attempt to minimize your discomfort.
How do you prevent cavities?
Regular tooth care is one of the best ways you can prevent cavities from forming. From brushing at least twice daily with a fluoride-containing toothpaste to getting hard-to-reach plaque free with your dental floss, the way you care for your teeth on a daily basis can reduce the likelihood you will experience cavities. Seeing your dentist on at least twice-yearly intervals also can help you keep your teeth healthy.
“You don’t have to have the fanciest toothbrush or the fanciest whitening toothpaste,” says W. Frank Johnson, DDS, a dentist with a private practice in Hixson, Tenn. “Those things are nice, but it’s not essential. However, consistent care is.”