Dental hygiene is vital, because apart from making you feel fresh, it also keeps various oral diseases at bay. Perhaps the most common outcome of poor dental hygiene is a cavity in the tooth. As the name suggests, a dental cavity is a small hole in the tooth due to decay by plaque, a kind of sticky bacteria. Cavities are among the most common dental issues, and it is likely that at some point in time or other, everyone will suffer from one. While both children and adults can have cavities, they can try to prevent them by practicing good dental hygiene and visiting their dentists regularly. A quick guide to understanding what dental cavities are, how they typically form, and what you can do to prevent them:
What are Cavities?
Tooth decay causes the tooth enamel, the hard external layer of teeth, to break down. If, after eating and drinking, you do not clean your teeth, a sticky film of bacteria called plaque forms on the tooth. The bacteria act on the sugar and starch in food and drink to convert them into acids, which are so strong that they can dissolve the minerals in the tooth enamel, resulting in a cavity. Plaque can harden over time and form tartar, damaging teeth and causing gum disease.
According to Medical News Today, the first sign of a cavity is a white spot on a tooth indicating the loss of minerals. Over time, the acids act on the spot and form a small hole. When unattended, the small hole becomes larger and traps more food particles, which accelerates the formation of the hole. Over time, the root of the tooth becomes exposed and you may feel severe pain, particularly if you expose it to heat or cold.
Everyone can have a dental cavity regardless of age. According to studies, 90% of adults aged 20 or over have suffered from cavities at least once. However, infants and young children tend to have more cavities due to more exposure to sugary food and drink and improper teeth cleaning.
It is important to practice good dental hygiene to prevent cavities. In addition to brushing and flossing, you must visit the dentist once every six months for a dental checkup. Your dentist may recommend more frequent visits if you are at more risk of dental diseases. Limiting sugary food and drink in children and regular brushing help to keep cavities from forming. Your dentist may recommend a fluoride rise to stop and even reverse tooth decay in its early stages.
Typical Symptoms of Cavities
You may not exhibit any symptoms if your tooth decay is in the early stages. However, as the decay progresses, you may experience tooth pain, sensitivity to sweets, hot and cold, see brown or white stains on your teeth, or feel pain when you bite. Your Cigna PPO insurance dentist will watch out for stains on your teeth that may signal early dental decay followed by a cavity.
The Cause of Cavities
When plaque, a type of sticky bacteria, adheres to your teeth, it converts the sugar and starch contained in food and drink into acids. The acids start eating away the enamel on the tooth, and over time, cavities form where the acid has worn away the enamel and made a hole in the underlying bone due to loss of minerals. Calcium and phosphate in saliva help replace some of the minerals lost by the decaying tooth, while fluoride in water, toothpaste, and other things, make the enamel harder and stop or reverse the effects of tooth decay.
How to Prevent Cavities
While preventing cavities is not easy, you can try the following methods:
Habitual brushing: You should make it a habit to brush twice daily, in the morning and before going off to sleep. Ensure you use good-quality toothpaste with fluoride. You must learn to brush the right way to clean the teeth and the gums without using too much force to avoid damaging them. Teaching young children to brush the right way can set them up for a lifetime. Teach them to spit out the toothpaste and not swallow it. As they grow older, teach them how to floss to keep the interdental spaces clean of food debris and plaque. Keep in mind that you can receive fluoride through a community water supply. Since bottled drinking water does not contain sufficient fluoride to prevent tooth decay, you may need to use tablets, mouth rinses, gels, and varnishes. You can ask your dentist if you need to use anything.
Eating wisely: A healthy diet is one of the most effective ways of preventing tooth decay resulting in cavities. Limit the exposure of your teeth to acids by not snacking in-between meals and not consuming sugary food and drink regularly. Rinsing your mouth every time after eating or drinking is a healthy habit that can prevent cavities. You or your children should not consume too much sweetened fruit juices, sodas, chocolates, candies, etc., especially not after brushing your teeth at night.
Consider sealants: Children prone to cavities may benefit from a dental sealant, a thin coating of plastic applied on the chewing surfaces of teeth, particularly the molars, or back teeth. The sealant forms a tough barrier that stops food, bacteria, and acids from getting trapped in the back teeth and causing them to decay.
Regular visits to the dentist: Ideally, you should visit the dentist twice a year for a checkup. The dentist will also professionally clean your teeth to remove plaque and tartar buildup.
Despite exercising care, you may still develop tooth sensitivity and pain, indicating the presence of a cavity. Your dentist may suggest measures like a fluoride rinse or an in-office treatment if the cavity is in its early stages. However, for more advanced cavities, he may recommend a filling in which he first removes the decayed tissue from the affected tooth with a drill and fills in the hole with a white composite material. He may advise a root canal treatment if the hole is so deep that it has exposed the root. In an extremely severe case, you may have to have an extraction followed by a dental implant.