Who hasn’t dreaded getting their cavity report from the dentist as a kid? Cavities are far from fatal, but they can lead to severe toothache and even tooth loss, affecting your life and appearance. Most people arguably know what a cavity is, are practically unaware of its causes, symptoms, and ways to prevent it. If you are among them, this blog summarizes everything you need to know about dental cavities.
Everything You Need to Know About Cavities
What Are Cavities?
Cavities are permanently damaged areas in the hard surface of teeth that develop into tiny holes if not treated in time. Frequent snacking, drinking sugary beverages and not brushing your teeth are the primary habits that lead to cavities. Curtailing these practices and taking proper care of your teeth will prevent the damage from affecting deeper dental layers.And you’re not alone: cavities are common among infants, children, teenagers and adults alike.
Cavities occur due to tooth decay, but the process does not happen in a day. Following are the ways how tooth decay develops:
- Formation of plaque
Plaque forms first. This is a clear sticky coating on your teeth that occurs due to consuming too much sugar and starch. Not cleaning your teeth is another reason behind cavity formation. When these foods are not cleaned away properly and remain stuck to teeth, bacteria begin feeding on them, leading to plaque. If not treated in time, they will harden under or above your gum line. Known as tartar, this shield for bacteria is difficult to remove.
- How plaque attacks
Plaque contains acids that remove minerals from your tooth enamel. This erosion leads to tiny holes or openings in the enamel which is the first stage of cavities. Once your enamel is affected, the acid and bacteria reach the next layer: the dentin. This layer is softer than enamel and is less resistant to acid, causing tooth sensitivity.
- How the damage continues
With the development of tooth decay, the acid and bacteria reach deeper into the inner tooth layer, known as the pulp, which consists of blood vessels and nerves. This becomes swollen, and as there is no place to expand, the nerves become pressed, causing pain and discomfort.
Cavity symptoms vary based on their location and the extent of the damage. When cavities begin, you may not experience any symptoms. However, as the decay develops, you may experience any of these symptoms:
- Tooth sensitivity
- Mild pain when eating sweet foods or hot/cold beverages
- Visible holes on teeth
- White, brown or black staining on the surface of the tooth
- Slight pain when you bite any hard food
Though cavities are common among infants and adults, here are a few ways you can prevent them.
- Brush with fluoride toothpaste
You should brush your teeth twice a day and after every meal with fluoride toothpaste. Apart from brushing, flossing is equally important to cleaning between teeth. You can use an interdental cleaner if you are not comfortable flossing.
- Rinse your mouth
After every meal, you should rinse your mouth with water and occasionally use mouthwash containing fluoride. In this way, you protect your teeth against tooth decay.
- Consider dental sealants
Do you have nooks or crannies in your back teeth? If so, then you should immediately conceal them with dental sealants to prevent food accumulating. With these thin plastic coatings, you can protect your teeth from developing cavities. These can last up to 10 years if you take good care of them.
- Avoiding frequent snacking and sipping
When you munch on food or sip beverages at frequent intervals, your mouth bacteria create acids that damage your tooth enamel. Hence, your teeth are under constant attack which is why it is wiser to drink water than to consume foods or other beverages often.
- Eating tooth-healthy foods
There are many foods crucial for healthy teeth. Calcium-rich foods such as fat-free milk, cheese, yogurt, salmon, almonds and green vegetables are good examples. Avoid citrus fruits, bread and dried fruits as these are the worst for your teeth.
- Visiting your dentist regularly
Though regular brushing and flossing are good for oral hygiene, some foods stay stuck between your teeth. This requires professional cleaning, and that’s why you should visit your dentist at least twice a year; once a month if you can. Regular dentist visits also mean that oral issues can be detected at an early stage, saving you from unnecessary pain. That’s a summary of everything that you need to know about cavities. Though not life-threatening, you should take proper care of your teeth to prevent them. That means daily brushing and avoiding frequent snacking. Otherwise, we all know that toothaches can incur excruciating pain. Finally, don’t forget to visit your dentist to prevent and treat any dental problem early.