Symptoms and Causes of Cavities and Tooth Decay
Our mouths contain millions of bacteria, both good and bad. The good bacteria help us break down food, while the bad bacteria feed on sugars and starches in our diets.
When these bad bacteria build up in our mouths, they can lead to cavities or tooth decay. Cavities form when acids produced by the bacteria erode away at the enamel of our teeth, creating small holes or pits. Tooth decay is caused by an infection in the inner layers of a tooth due to prolonged exposure to acids from plaque buildup.
Cavities and tooth decay can have a range of symptoms based on their severity, from sensitivity to sweets or hot or cold temperatures all the way up to pain when chewing hard foods. Luckily, there are steps you can take to help prevent cavities and tooth decay before they start!
What Is Tooth Decay?
Tooth decay is an oral health condition that affects the teeth. It’s caused by the build-up of plaque and bacteria on the surface of a tooth, which then produces acids that erode away at the enamel. This can result in pain, sensitivity, discoloration, and eventually tooth loss.
Tooth decay is most commonly found in children and adults with poor oral hygiene habits. This includes individuals who don’t brush their teeth regularly or floss properly, those who eat sugary foods and drink sugary drinks frequently, and adults with dry mouths due to certain medications or medical conditions.
Types of Tooth Decay
The first type of tooth decay is called enamel erosion. This happens when bacterial acids break down the hard outer layer of your teeth, which is made up primarily of calcium phosphate minerals. Over time, enamel erosion can lead to cavities and further damage to your teeth if left untreated.
Another form of dental decay is called root caries. This occurs when the root surface on your teeth becomes exposed due to gum recession or periodontal disease. The loss of protective gums leaves your roots vulnerable, leading to demineralization and cavities that can spread quickly if not treated right away.
Root caries often require more extensive treatments, such as fillings or crowns, in order to prevent further damage from occurring.
Causes of Cavities and Tooth Decay
The exact cause of cavities and tooth decay can be difficult to pinpoint, but there are a few key factors that contribute to the development of these oral health concerns.
One major cause is poor oral hygiene. This includes not brushing your teeth regularly enough, or not flossing at least once a day. Additionally, eating sugary foods and drinking beverages with added sugar can also increase the risk of developing cavities or tooth decay, since they feed the bacteria in your mouth that produce acids which erode the enamel on your teeth.
Another factor that contributes to cavities and tooth decay is not visiting your North York dentist for regular checkups and cleanings. During these visits, your dentist can detect any early signs of cavities or tooth decay before they become more serious issues that require extensive treatment.
How to Prevent Cavities and Tooth Decay
Brushing and flossing regularly is essential for removing plaque from your teeth and preventing it from hardening into tartar, which can lead to cavities. It’s important to use a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste when brushing your teeth at least twice a day. Additionally, flossing between the teeth at least once a day will help remove plaque from those hard-to-reach areas that a toothbrush cannot reach.
Limiting sugar intake is another way to protect against cavities and tooth decay. Sugary foods such as candy or soda are especially damaging because they feed bacteria in your mouth, making it easier for plaque to form.
Treatments for Cavities and Tooth Decay
Treatments for cavities and tooth decay depend on the severity of the problem. For mild cases, brushing twice a day and flossing once a day can help prevent further damage. A dentist may also recommend fluoride treatments or sealants to protect against bacteria buildup.
For more severe cases, a filling is often needed to repair the damaged area. Fillings are typically made of composite resin or porcelain and can be matched to the natural colour of your teeth. In some cases, a crown may also be necessary. Crowns are custom-made caps that fit over a damaged tooth to restore its shape, size, and strength.
In extreme cases where decay has caused an abscess or infection, root canal therapy may be required. During this procedure, the infected tissue is removed from inside the tooth and replaced with a filling material. Afterward, the tooth will usually need additional protection for stability and long-term durability.
Risks and Complications of Cavities and Tooth Decay
The risks and complications associated with cavities and tooth decay should not be taken lightly. If left untreated, these conditions can cause serious damage to the teeth and gums.
When a cavity or tooth decay is not treated in time, it can spread to surrounding areas of the mouth and create more problems. Bacteria in the area can move into other parts of the mouth, resulting in gum disease, abscesses, and other dental issues. Additionally, if a cavity is large enough, it may damage nearby teeth or cause jawbone loss.
Not only are cavities and tooth decay uncomfortable, but they also raise the risk for other health problems such as heart disease and stroke, as oral bacteria can enter your bloodstream through small tears in your gums and travel throughout your body.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Is the Best Way to Brush My Teeth to Prevent Cavities and Tooth Decay?
A regular brushing routine will help keep your mouth clean and healthy by removing plaque, bacteria, and food particles that can lead to cavities. The type of toothbrush you use matters: soft bristles are best for cleaning without damaging your gums or enamel, while harder bristles can be too abrasive over time.
Consider using an electric toothbrush if possible, as they can be much more effective than manual brushes. As for toothpaste, look for one with added fluoride for extra protection against cavities and decay.
How Long Does It Typically Take for A Cavity to Form?
The types of food or drink you consume will greatly affect how quickly a cavity can form. Sugary and acidic drinks and foods will break down enamel faster, leading to the quicker development of cavities. Additionally, poor dental hygiene, such as failing to brush or floss regularly, can also speed up the development of cavities.
How Often Should I Visit the Dentist for a Check-Up?
Most dental health organizations recommend people visit their dentist at least once every six months. This frequency helps ensure that any potential issues are caught early on and addressed promptly.
During a check-up, your dentist will examine your mouth, teeth, tongue, gums, and throat to look for signs of decay or infection. They may also take x-rays or perform other tests if necessary.