Cavities! It’s a word that we all dread when we go to the dentist. Understanding a little more about the causes of cavities and how they are treated may help to alleviate some of this fear.
Cavities are caused by the destruction or weakening of your tooth enamel. Tooth enamel is the hard covering over the tooth that helps to protect the underlying bone and interior of the tooth. Cavities can occur in children, teenagers, and adults, so it’s important to maintain as much of your enamel as
As you eat and drink foods that contain sugars throughout the day, a sticky residue builds up on the teeth. Plaque is a sticky form of bacteria that are then attracted to the sugars on your teeth. As the bacteria grows on your teeth, they excrete an acid that can deteriorate the tooth’s enamel. Over time,
the enamel begins to break down. This breakdown is what creates a cavity.
Cavities occur more frequently in children but can become an increasing concern with age as well. As the gums recede, it exposes weaker portions of the teeth that are more susceptible to cavities. Gum recession can also expose the roots of the tooth. Any damage to the root may lead to tooth loss.
Cavities also form in older adults around fillings or dental work. This can be because the tooth has lost the amount of enamel that younger individuals have but may also be attributed to the lack of modern dental work. Older dental work typically doesn’t hold well around the edges and exposes the underlying tooth to damage and decay.
When the enamel of the tooth has become too weak, small holes will start to develop in the actual tooth. If this is the case, your dentist must fix the problem or else it will become worse. It is likely that your dentist will recommend a filling.
Fillings are placed when dentists remove all the damaged tooth and other material from the small hole. They must then fill the hole with a substance to block any future damage to that part of the tooth. Fillings are made with resins or a combination of materials to protect the tooth.
There are some simple tricks that people can use to avoid or lessen the amount and severity of cavities that they get over the course of their lives.
Brush twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste – Brushing twice a day helps to remove the buildup of sugars and bacteria on your teeth. Toothpastes that contain fluoride help to maintain the tooth’s natural enamel.
Clean between your teeth every day – The use of floss or an interdental cleaner can help to remove food or sugars that get caught between the teeth, and that may not be removed from brushing.
Ask your dentist about supplemental fluoride – Many municipal water supplies are treated with fluoride to help the entire population’s dental health. However, if you don’t live in one of these areas or you have issues with cavities, you should ask your dentist about adding supplemental fluoride to your health plan.
Complete your regular checkups – Visiting your dentist regularly can help to remove some of the more difficult plaque or buildup. These visits can also catch problems early and when they are easily treatable rather than when they may require complete tooth removal.