A cavity is a little opening in your tooth that happens when the hard external layer of the tooth, called enamel, is damaged. Even though you probably won’t see a hole shaping from the start, it can eventually cause pain. In more serious cases, a cavity can result in a dental procedure called a root canal.
Cavities are a common dental problem. About 91% of Americans over the age of 20 have experienced a cavity. However, with proper oral hygiene and regular dental visits, they’re often preventable.
Causes of Cavity
Teeth are covered in a relatively thick layer of enamel, a protective coating. Enamel is made mostly from minerals—including calcium—which forms hard crystals to protect the blood vessels and nerves in the tooth. Since enamel isn’t living, it’s not able to repair itself.2
Teeth are canvassed in a generally thick layer of veneer, a defensive covering. A veneer is made generally from minerals—including calcium—which structures hard gems to ensure the veins and nerves in the tooth. Since the finish isn’t living, it’s not ready to fix itself.2
That’s problematic since tooth enamel is constantly under attack. Your mouth is full of all sorts of bacteria, which are always forming plaque, a sticky film, on your teeth. 3 When you eat foods that contain sugar, these bacteria produce acid that can damage your tooth enamel. Over time, that damage can lead to the formation of a cavity.
Symptoms and Diagnosis of Cavity
Cavities are hard to detect at first since you won’t see any indications when they’re simply shaping. That’s why regular dental checkups every six months are important. At these checkups, dentists can check for early cavities by looking at your teeth, touching them, and using x-rays.
As your hole becomes further into your tooth, it could arrive at the delicate veins and nerves in your tooth. 3 That’s the point at which you’re probably going to begin experiencing symptoms. The side effects of holes include:
- A toothache
- Pain when you bite
- Tooth sensitivity to temperature, including sharp pain when eating hot or cold foods or drinks
- Discoloration of the tooth, or a noticeable hole
Who Gets Cavities?
In America, almost everyone will get a cavity at some point in their lives. However, the people most at risk for cavities are people who are very young or people over 50. Babies and young children who drink from bottles are at increased risk because their teeth are exposed to carbohydrates and sugar from bottles overnight. 5
On the other hand, older people are at risk because they more often have receding gums. As the gum recedes, it can expose the root of the tooth, which is not covered in enamel, but a softer substance. 4 This can make it easier for cavities to form.
In addition to those two demographics, other risk factors can increase your likelihood of cavities. People with these conditions are at increased risk for tooth decay:
- Dry mouth. Saliva helps to wash away the plague, so people who don’t have enough saliva because of medical conditions or medication are more likely to have cavities.
- Reflux. The acid that enters the mouths of people with reflux can deteriorate tooth enamel.
- Eating disorders. Eating disorders can change saliva production, and frequent vomiting can bring stomach acid into the mouth and deteriorate the enamel.
Although cavities are common, Solar Dental & Orthodontics recommends to Take these steps can help reduce your risk for cavities:
- Brush your teeth after every meal for two minutes, with fluoride toothpaste.
- Minimize sugary snacks and drinks
- Avoid frequent snacking so that your teeth aren’t constantly exposed to acids that are made when you eat.
- Visit a dentist regularly to help catch tooth decay early.
Treatments for Cavity
The treatment for your cavity will depend on how early it is detected. If you catch the cavity early, your dentist may be able to prevent further damage by using fluoride treatments. This helps the enamel to repair the minerals that have been depleted by plaque formation.
However, cavities often require other treatments to make sure that the damage to your tooth does not get worse. This includes:
- Fillings: The dentist drills the damaged enamel and fills it in with synthetic material. This prevents further damage to the tooth since the filling protects your tooth in the same way that enamel does.
- Root canal: A root canal is needed when a cavity has gone all the way through the enamel to the pulp, which is the material inside your tooth surrounding the blood vessels and nerves. During this procedure, a dentist cleans the root of the tooth, removing any decay. You leave with a temporary filling and later return for a permanent filling or crown, depending on how much of the tooth you’ve lost.
- Tooth pulling: If the damage to your tooth from a cavity is severe, your dentist may advise you to have the tooth extracted. In this case, you should use a bridge or implant to fill the space that the tooth has left, so that your other teeth don’t move into space.
We love our patients and love to help them form a healthy dental life that will last them a lifetime. For more information call us today to answer all of your questions so get an appointment today.