Cavities are damage in the hard surface of your teeth that advance to tiny breaches or openings. A buildup of bacteria in your mouth, frequent snacking, sipping sweet beverages, and neglecting to clean your teeth thoroughly are all contributors to tooth decay, also known as caries.
Cavities form when the tooth’s enamel weakens and bacteria begin to eat away at the tooth. The bacteria produce acids that dissolve the tooth’s enamel. Once the enamel is breached, the decay can spread to the next layer of the tooth, called dentin.
Dentin is a harder material than enamel, but it is still vulnerable to decay. As the decay spreads, it can reach the tooth’s pulp. The pulp is the innermost layer of the tooth and contains blood vessels and nerves. When the decay reaches the pulp, it can cause an infection or abscess. An abscess is a pus-filled pocket that forms around the tooth.
Cavities can range from small and barely noticeable to large and painful. If left untreated, cavities can cause serious oral health problems, including tooth loss. Fortunately, cavities are preventable with good oral hygiene and regular dental visits.
What are the symptoms of a cavity?
The early stages of a cavity may not cause any symptoms. However, as the cavity progresses, you may experience:
-Sensitivity to hot or cold temperatures
-Visible holes or pits in your teeth
-Staining on your teeth
-Pain when you bite down
If you have any of these symptoms, see your dentist as soon as possible.
How are cavities treated?
The treatment for a cavity depends on how severe it is. In the early stages, a cavity can often be repaired with a simple filling. A filling is an artificial material used to replace the tooth’s damaged structure.
If the cavity is more advanced, a more serious procedure, such as a root canal or tooth extraction, may be necessary. A root canal is a procedure in which the dentist removes the tooth’s pulp and fills the cavity with an artificial material. A tooth extraction is a procedure in which the dentist removes the entire tooth.
Cavities can cause serious oral health problems, but they are preventable with good oral hygiene and regular dental visits. If you think you have a cavity, see your dentist as soon as possible. Early treatment can help prevent the cavity from getting worse.
Everyone who consumes sugar is susceptible to cavities, but there are a few things that can raise the chances of developing them:
-Eating disorders: People with bulimia or anorexia are at a higher risk for cavities because of the purging and vomiting associated with these conditions. The stomach acids can erode tooth enamel, making teeth more vulnerable to decay.
-Dry mouth: Saliva helps protect teeth from cavities by washing away food and neutralizing acids. People who have dry mouth due to medication side effects, radiation therapy, or certain medical conditions are at a higher risk for cavities.
-Smoking: Cigarette smoking can contribute to dry mouth and also stains teeth, making them more difficult to keep clean.
-Poor oral hygiene: Brushing and flossing help remove plaque, a sticky film of food and bacteria that can lead to cavities. People who don’t brush and floss regularly are at a higher risk for cavities.
-Certain medical conditions: Conditions such as diabetes or gastrointestinal disorders can make people more susceptible to cavities.
-Eating sugary foods: Sugar is the main fuel for the bacteria that cause cavities. Eating sugary foods, such as candy, cookies, and cake, can raise the chances of developing cavities.
-Drinking sugary beverages: Drinking sodas, fruit juices, and sports drinks can also contribute to cavities. The sugar in these drinks coats the teeth and provides fuel for the cavity-causing bacteria.
-Not visiting the dentist: Regular dental visits are important for preventing cavities. During a dental visit, the dentist can detect early signs of decay and provide treatment to prevent the cavity from getting worse.
Cavities are preventable with good oral hygiene and regular dental visits. If you think you might have a cavity, see your dentist Dallas as soon as possible. Early treatment can help prevent the cavity from getting worse.