What to know about tooth cavities
Tooth decay occurs from a buildup of dental plaque in the mouth. This can damage the tooth structure over time.
It is possible for this damage to become permanent. Holes can then develop on the tooth, and these holes are what tooth cavities are.
Several treatments, such as fillings, are available. However, the most effective way to treat tooth cavities is to prevent them from occurring in the first place. This is possible by keeping the mouth and teeth clean.
It will also help to avoid certain foods, such as those high in sugar. Consuming too much of these foods can cause the buildup of plaque that leads to tooth cavities.
Tooth cavities do not always cause symptoms, so it is important to visit a dentist regularly.
Cavities are holes that develop in the teeth.
The mouth contains a large number of bacteria, some of which can be harmful. They form a thin, colorless layer over the top of the teeth. This is dental plaque.
Over time, it is possible for plaque to build up. For example, this may occur due to a person regularly consuming foods high in sugar and starch.
Repeated exposure to the acid from plaques can damage tooth enamel. Enamel is the protective outer layer covering the teeth. Tooth decay depletes the minerals present in enamel.
While the enamel can repair some of this damage itself, the decay can eventually lead to tooth cavities. This occurs when permanent damage affects the enamel, causing holes to form on the surface of the tooth.
This decay can occur in people of all ages but is particularly common in children.
The main symptom of a tooth cavity is the hole itself, the size of which can vary. It is possible for cavities to occur without any further symptoms. In cases where other symptoms occur, they may include:
- white, gray, brown, or black spots on the teeth
- tooth sensitivity
- bad breath
Without treatment, bacteria can spread to softer tissues inside the tooth. This can speed up tooth decay and cause toothaches to worsen. This can also lead to infections.
Using mouthwash may help prevent cavities.
Once tooth cavities occur, the damage is permanent. Treatments for this damage can range from a filling to root canal treatment. The exact type of treatment will depend on the location and severity of the cavity.
However, tooth cavities are easily preventable. There are ways to prevent the buildup of plaque that causes tooth cavities.
Some prevention tips include:
- using toothpastes and mouthwashes that contain fluoride
- brushing the teeth twice per day, using a circular motion
- gently brushing the gums
- using interdental cleaners such as floss in the gap between teeth
- avoiding foods and drinks high in sugar, such as fizzy drinks, particularly those without any nutritional value
- limiting the intake of starchy foods
- avoiding snacking between meals or just before bed
- avoiding tobacco products
- drinking alcohol in moderation
- having regular checkups with a dentist
It is also possible to reverse tooth decay in the very early stages. Tooth enamel can repair minor damage itself by replacing lost minerals from saliva or fluoride.
Fluoride is a mineral that can reverse the damage of tooth decay. A dentist may prescribe fluoride gel or other fluoride products for coating the teeth.
Fluoride treatments can strengthen enamel and protect teeth against damage from plaque. Along with possibly making dietary changes, using these fluoride treatments can help the teeth repair any minor damage from tooth decay.
As tooth cavities are more common in children, it is important for caregivers to check for early signs of tooth decay regularly. This includes looking for white, gray, brown, or black spots on the teeth. These are signs of mineral loss from tooth decay.
Tooth cavities result from buildups of plaque that cause permanent damage to teeth. They may not cause any symptoms, so it is vital to see a dentist for regular checkups.
Without treatment, this damage can worsen. Treating cavities, such as using fillings, is possible. It is also possible to reverse minor tooth decay using a fluoride gel.
It is simple to prevent tooth cavities with a healthful diet and good oral hygiene.