Keeping your teeth healthy is important to maintaining your overall health. In today’s modern society, there are plenty of tools and resources available to us that make caring for our teeth easier than ever. However, sometimes no matter how much we care for our teeth, we still might develop tooth decay. One of the most common dental conditions that many people end up suffering from is dental cavities.
What Are Dental Cavities?
Dental cavities, also sometimes referred to as dental caries, are areas of the tooth that have begun to decay and are permanently damaged. They usually begin on the outside of the tooth when the enamel begins to wear away, but they can become so severe that they move inside the tooth to eat away at the soft, sensitive part of the tooth that is known as the pulp. Cavities manifest themselves in the form of tiny holes or crevices that appear in the teeth, and you usually know if you have a cavity because you can usually see the hole in your tooth, and a certain degree of pain is usually associated with it as well. People who have dental cavities usually experience toothaches in the affected tooth, sensitivity, mild or sharp pain when eating, drinking or chewing and pain in general when they bite down on the tooth.
Causes of Dental Cavities
Cavities don’t just happen overnight. Rather, they form over time. The process of a cavity forming begins with the accumulation of plaque on the tooth. The mouth already contains a certain amount of bacteria in it, and when that bacteria mixes with certain types of food and drinks, especially sugary ones, acids are formed and plaque begins to adhere to the surface of the teeth. When plaque is allowed to sit on your teeth, it begins to harden and then becomes more difficult to remove. The acid in the plaque begins to eat away at the teeth and deteriorate the outer enamel of the tooth, which is the first stage of dental cavities. Once the acid from the plaque has eaten away enough enamel on the tooth, it can then reach the inner part of the tooth that is known as the dentin. The dentin is even less resistant to acid than the enamel is, and once the dentin begins to deteriorate, this is when most people start experience pain and toothaches that let them know that they have a dental cavity. In some cases, the cavity becomes so bad that the pulp of the tooth becomes infected and can lead to a dental abscess.
Treatment for Dental Cavities
Because the formation of dental cavities isn’t always noticeable in its early stages, it’s important to visit your dentist regularly for dental checkup and routine teeth cleaning. Professional teeth cleaning helps remove any plaque that you’ve missed through regular brushing and flossing so that if any of your teeth are in the early stages of dental cavity formation, the problem can be addressed before it becomes too progressed. However, if you end up developing a full-blown dental cavity, there are treatment options available to help you stop further tooth decay.
If your dental cavity is merely in the first phase of development, then in addition to professionally cleaning your teeth, your dentist might also prescribe a fluoride treatment to you. Fluoride treatments contain more fluoride in them than over-the-counter toothpastes and mouthwashes do, and they generally must be placed on your teeth for a few minutes at a time in an attempt to kill plaque and restore the tooth’s enamel. However, if your dental cavity is more advanced, then you might require a dental filling. A filling is usually the most common treatment option for dental cavities. Fillings are used to fill in the hole where the dental cavity has eaten away part of the tooth, and filling can be made of a variety of materials, such as metals, resins, porcelain and combinations of materials.
In instances where your tooth has become so decayed that there’s not much left to it, your dentist might affix a crown over the tooth. Crowns have the appearance of real teeth, and they are simply capped over the deteriorated tooth to help prevent additional decay from occurring. Still, in more severe cases, you might need a root canal to removed the deadened nerves and tissues from the tooth, or you might have to have the affected tooth extracted completely.
Colgate. “Dental caries (cavities).” Retrieved on June 8, 2016, from http://www.colgate.com/en/us/oc/oral-health/conditions/cavities/article/dental-caries-cavities.
MedicineNet. “Dental cavities (dental caries).” Retrieved on June 8, 2016, from http://www.medicinenet.com/cavities/article.htm.
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