What Are Dental Cavities and How Can You Avoid Them?
The tooth has different layers with the enamel, the outer layer, being the hardest part. The enamel strength is determined by minerals such as calcium and phosphate. Daily, these minerals are stripped off from the enamel because of the food we eat. If continuous demineralization occurs without replenishing the mineral, the enamel will become weak and soft exposing it to acid attack which causes holes.
Dental cavities are tiny holes that occur either in the tooth surface or in between the teeth. In the initial stages, the holes don’t cause any pain and that’s why most people don’t take them seriously until it’s too late. Left untreated, the dental cavity can spread to the inner layer—dentin and affect the pulp cavity.
Who Is at Risk?
Dental cavities can affect anyone including infants, but they are common among children, teenagers, and seniors. Children are at risk because of low saliva production and poor hygiene, while in adults its due to the gum separation from the teeth.
Other factors can predispose you to cavities such as:
- Location of the teeth. The back teeth are more affected because they have grooves, crannies, and pits that can hold food particles. Plus, they are harder to clean than the front teeth.
- Dry mouth is caused by low saliva production. Saliva helps to clean food particles and plaques from your teeth. Certain medications can lead to dry mouth such as chemotherapy drugs.
- Insufficient fluoride use. Fluoride, a naturally occurring mineral, helps to strengthen the enamel and prevent cavities
How Do They Occur?
Dental cavities occur when the tooth enamel is weak and exposed to acid. Bacteria is the primary cause of dental cavities. Everyone has bacteria in the mouth and when we eat sugary foods such as carbohydrates, the bacteria break them down and lead to the production of acid. Too much acid in the mouth causes enamel erosion and formation of holes.
Consumption of sugary foods and poor oral hygiene can also lead to plaque formation. Plaque that is not removed well, will harden and cause tartar which creates a shield for bacteria.
Plaque buildup is the cause of gum or periodontal disease.
What Are the Treatment Options?
When you have tooth decay, the dentist can recommend a variety of treatment options. Our goal is to preserve the tooth, so the first treatment option we opt for fluoride treatment. Fluoride may restore the enamel and reverse mild dental decay.
At times a root canal is done to get rid of the decay and preserve the natural tooth. After the procedure, the dentist will choose a suitable tooth filling to preserve the integrity of the tooth.
Dental crowns are also used to restore the function of the tooth. The dentist will drill down the decayed area and create custom-fitted crowns to cover the teeth.
In severe dental decay, tooth extraction will be done to preserve the dental structure and keep the decay from spreading. The tooth removal procedure involves the pulling of the teeth from the jawbone. Once the permanent teeth are removed, you will need other restorative treatments to replace them.
How Can You Prevent Dental Cavities?
Dental decay is preventable with proper hygiene. Additionally, you can:
- Use fluoride toothpaste and mouth wash to clean your teeth and restore the integrity of the enamel
- Opt for dental sealants that can protect the teeth from cavities. These plastic coatings are usually used for children, but adults with healthy teeth can also benefit.
- Have regular dental visits. With the routine dental exam, the dentist can detect any decay formation and remove it on time. We perform professional cleaning with every dental checkup to remove plaques and tartar.
- Eat a healthy diet that can enhance the health and strength of your teeth
- Drink water instead of juice
We advise our patients to come for dental checkups twice a year to monitor their dental health. Remember, dental decay takes time to develop, and with early detection, you can save your teeth.