Cavities and standard tooth decay-related issues are more common than one might think. From infants to adults, everyone who has teeth can get cavities. Cavities are permanently damaged areas of the hard surface of the teeth that create tiny holes and openings.
If cavities are left untreated, over time, the tiny holes will get larger and larger, slowly eating through the enamel, which is the outer protective layer of the teeth. Once the enamel is eaten through, it never grows back, and cavities reach the inner layer of the tooth, also called the pulp.
That can lead to headaches, toothaches, tooth infections, and tooth loss. To prevent cavities, dental visits are the best protection you have against tooth cavities and decay.
But what can we do on our own to prevent cavities?
- Brush our teeth after a meal or if we have been drinking colored or sugary beverages. At least two times per day with toothpaste enriched with fluoride, best if combined with flossing.
- Rinse our mouth with fluoride liquid.
- Consider dental sealant or teeth veneers.
- Drink tap water and stay hydrated (some substances of saliva counter bacteria and acids).
- Avoid unnecessary snacks. Whenever we eat and drink, our teeth are constantly attacked by bacteria and acids.
- Eat healthy food that strengthens your teeth. Fruits and vegetables are always recommended, but nevertheless, brush your teeth after a meal.
Most Common Causes and Symptoms of Cavities
Cavities are caused by tooth decay, which takes time, so let’s break it down.
Dental plaque forms due to eating sugar and starches over the day and not cleaning well. If it’s not cleaned properly, bacteria start feeding on them and forming plaque. If it stays on your teeth, it can harden around your gums, forming tartar, which makes it even more difficult to remove and creates a shield for bacteria.
The Effects of Plaque
Plaque destroys the tooth. The acids in plaque are slowly eating enamel, and erosion of enamel causes tiny holes and openings, the first stage of cavities. Once enamel is worn away, bacteria can reach the second layer of teeth, called dentin, and dentin has tiny tubes connecting with the nerves of the tooth, causing sensitivity to hot or cold.
The last step of the plaque is when it moves to the inner tooth material, the pulp, which contains nerves and blood vessels. Once the pulp gets affected by bacteria, it becomes swollen. Since it’s inside of a tooth, it has no place to expand, so the nerve gets pressed, causing pain and eventually spreading to the root of the bone and nearby teeth.
Now you’re wondering, what is the cause of a cavity? What is affecting it, and what are the consequences?
One of the common factors is tooth location. Cavities often develop in our back teeth since they have deeper grooves and pits where the food debris can gather.
Food and drinks are the biggest culprits. We all love to have a snack every now and then, but do we ever think about how it affects our teeth? Sugary food or food that sticks to our teeth is more likely to cause cavities. And if we frequently snack, the bacteria in our mouth constantly get more fuel for producing acid.
Other causes include:
- Bad Dental Hygiene — If we don’t at least brush our teeth twice a day, plaque forms more quickly, which leads to teeth decay
- Dry Mouth — This can cause tooth decay since saliva is needed to wash food, debris, and plaque. Stay hydrated
- Worn Fillings and Dental Devices — In time, dental fillings can wear down, weaken or develop rough edges. Fillings and devices can stop fitting well. That allows bacteria to enter inner layers and cause decay.
- Heartburn — This causes stomach acid to flow into your mouth, wearing away the enamel, exposing the dentin, and causing significant tooth damage.
- Eating Disorders — Anorexia or Bulimia can lead to severe tooth erosion and cavities due to stomach acids and continuous vomiting.
Finally, we get to the symptoms. Cavities can cause some severe and long-lasting complications, especially if we don’t react timely. As the decay progresses, you may have some of these symptoms:
- Tooth sensitivity
- Sharp pain when eating and drinking
- Sensitivity to hot and cold food or drinks
- Visible holes in your teeth
- Bad breath
- White stains on the teeth’ surface
- Swelling or pus around the tooth
- Tooth abscess
If decay becomes more severe, you might experience one of these symptoms:
- Distracting pain
- Sudden weight loss or other nutrition-related problems
- Tooth loss
Treatment of Cavities
If we don’t manage to prevent cavities, how can we treat them?
Firstly, your chosen dentist should exam your teeth and determine if there tooth decay is present. If the decay is not visible, an X-ray might be needed. Here’s how cavities can be treated:
- Tooth Fillings — Dentists use a drill to remove the decayed sutfaces and fill in the tooth.
- Crowns — For more severe decays, your dentist may place a custom-fit cap over your tooth to replace the natural crown that was eaten by acid
- Root Canal — The dentist removes the nerve tissue, blood vessel tissue, and decayed areas of the tooth and applies the medication to the root as needed.
- Extraction of the tooth — If there is no better option, your dentist may need to extract your tooth.
If you want, you may get an implant to replace the missing tooth. We all know how a nice smile can impact our self-esteem, so veneers might be a great option to consider. It’s quick and simple, yet effective, since veneers bond to your teeth, concealing cracks, chips, stains, discoloration, and other cosmetic imperfections.
Dental veneers are one of the most common cosmetic dentistry treatments. There are several types of teeth veneers that are currently available, depending on your specific goal. One of the most frequent types is porcelain veneers.
Dental veneers are highly beneficial for the shape, size, color, and alignment of your teeth. Veneers can also give you that bright Hollywood smile that can make you feel like a superstar and who doesn’t want to be one?