Most of us have seen a dentist and had a cavity repaired. What is a cavity? A cavity is an opening in the hard protective layer of your tooth (the enamel). This defect begins when food becomes trapped between your teeth allowing plaque to form, a clear sticky film that coats your teeth. Bacteria grow in the plaque producing an acid that eats away at your tooth enamel creating a cavity.
What causes a cavity?
So you have a cavity. What caused it? There are many possibilities.
- Eating sugary, sticky foods and beverages that become trapped between your teeth (candy, honey, dried fruit, cake, soda, etc.)
- Inadequate brushing – not brushing long, often and thoroughly enough
- Frequent snacking – provides more time and fuel for the bacteria to create acid and attack your teeth
- Receding gums – exposes the roots of your teeth making them vulnerable to decay
- Lack of fluoride – a naturally occurring mineral that helps prevent cavities and can reverse early tooth damage
- Worn dental devices – poorly fitting devices trap food allowing decay to begin beneath them
- Dry mouth – a lack of saliva to wash away food and plaque and counter the acid produced by bacteria
- Heartburn – acid reflux can cause stomach acid to flow into your mouth wearing away the enamel of your teeth
How do I know if I have a cavity? The signs and symptoms of cavities vary, depending on their severity and location. When a cavity is just beginning, you may not have any symptoms at all. As decay progresses, the symptoms become obvious. If you have a toothache or experience pain when eating or drinking sweet, sticky, acidic, hot or cold foods and beverages, you may have a cavity. A chipped tooth or a visible hole is a sign of tooth decay. Swollen or bleeding gums may also be evidence of decay. Brown, Black or white staining on the surface of a tooth may be a sign that a cavity has developed. If you’re dealing with any of these symptoms, see your dentist.
How can I prevent cavities?
The idea of acid eating a hole in your tooth may sound disturbing! There are many simple things that you can do to help reduce the possibility of developing a cavity.
- Eat healthy – avoid sugary foods and drinks
- Drink water and chew sugar free gum to help wash away food particles
- Brush regularly and thoroughly using a fluoride toothpaste
- Use a fluoride mouthwash
- Change your toothbrush every three months as new bristles remove plaque more efficiently
- Floss daily to remove food and plaque from between your teeth
- Visit your dentist regularly for a check-up and cleaning
- Ask your dentist about sealants – a plastic material that is painted on vulnerable teeth to act as a barrier and protect the tooth surface from bacteria and acid
If you experience any of the symptoms associated with a cavity, see your dentist. She can help repair damage and advise you on ways to reduce the possibility of future tooth decay. To avoid developing a cavity, schedule regular cleanings and dental exams.
If you think you have a cavity or need advice on how to avoid tooth decay call Centennial Smiles at 587-353-5060.