Cavities are a very common dental issue that can affect people of any age. Also referred to as tooth decay or dental caries, these occur when bacteria accumulate on the teeth and produce an acidic substance that corrodes the enamel. If left untreated, this can result in serious issues like infections and even tooth loss.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), approximately 60% of teenagers between 12-19 have had at least one cavity in their permanent teeth, while nearly 25% of adults aged 20-64 have experienced multiple cavities. It’s clear then: this is an extensive problem with far-reaching implications if not addressed.
What Is Tooth Decay?
Tooth decay is a severe bacterial infection that wreaks havoc on the hard tissues of our teeth, such as the enamel, dentin, and cementum. The bacteria in our mouths secretes acids that erode the tooth enamel – creating small holes or openings known as cavities. If left untreated these dental problems can become much larger, penetrating further into your teeth and causing pain.
Tooth decay could potentially affect your nerves and lead to an infection in the bone around your tooth – resulting in what’s known as a tooth abscess. It could also become a more serious issue where the infection spreads from your mouth throughout other parts of your body. To prevent this from happening, it is highly important to maintain good oral hygiene, along with regular brushing and flossing accompanied by trips to your dentist for regular checkups and cleanings.
What Is A Cavity?
You know it as a cavity. Your dentist may refer to it as tooth decay or dental caries. All three are names for a hole in your tooth. A cavity is a type of decay that develops in the tooth from bacterial activity. It manifests itself as an opening or crevice and is usually caused by germs latching onto food particles left behind in the mouth, creating an acidic substance. Tooth disintegration is an ongoing process, and cavities are just one part of the process where the damage to the enamel can be seen with the naked eye.
Recognizing the Signs of Cavities for Early Detection and Prevention
It’s not uncommon to experience no symptoms in the early stages of cavities. However, as decay intensifies near your tooth’s nerve, you will notice that something is amiss. Below are some telltale signs you may have a cavity:
Sensitivity when eating or drinking hot, cold, or sugary foods/drinks: This is one of the most common indicators that someone has a cavity. Discomfort or pain may be present with such items.
Pain while biting down: As cavities advance they can cause more severe pain, specifically while chewing food. It could manifest as sharp sensations or consistent discomfort depending on the severity level.
Discoloration and holes on the surface area: Visible changes like dark spots and small holes will appear on teeth if there’s a cavity present, so keep an eye out for these noticeable indicators!
Bad breath/unpleasant taste: The increased bacteria caused by cavities can release foul smells and tastes, leading to bad breath and an unpleasant taste in your mouth — this should be addressed as soon as possible.
Jaw ache and difficulty chewing: More advanced cases might lead to jaw pains when opening wide enough to eat properly, along with trouble actually consuming food due to extreme sensitivity from decayed areas within your teeth.
Different Types of Cavities and The Pain You May Experience
Cavities come in many forms, each with its own unique set of symptoms and pain levels:
Pit and fissure cavities lurk in the most inconspicuous places – on the surfaces of your molars. Not only are they difficult to spot, but they can also cause severe pain or sensitivity when eating certain foods.
As we age, root cavities may also become more common due to gum recession; this type is signaled by increased discomfort from hot and cold drinks/foods.
Smooth surface cavities often reveal themselves through discoloration and small concavities on flat teeth enamel.
The intensity and type of pain caused by a cavity can be quite varied. When the decay is only at its beginning stages, there might not be any pain felt as it has yet to penetrate into deeper layers of the tooth. However, when you start feeling sharp twinges from biting down on food or sensitivity toward sweet substances — this should not be taken lightly! In more severe cases, people may even experience a dull ache in the affected area accompanied by referred pains like numbness in their heads/necks — which requires immediate attention.
If you’re dealing with cavity pain, don’t worry – there are a few quick and easy ways to relieve your discomfort while you wait for your scheduled dentist visit.
- Painkillers can help reduce the discomfort and numbing gels or solutions can be applied directly to your affected area to soothe the pain.
- Rinsing your mouth with warm salt water may also provide much-needed relief as it helps clear away debris around the painful area.
- Avoid foods and drinks that inflict the most pain on your tooth.
Treatment of Cavities
If you’ve developed a cavity, quick action is crucial to prevent further deterioration and potential complications. When it comes to treatment options, your dentist will be able to determine the best way forward based on an examination of your teeth and X-rays. Here are some possibilities:
Fillings: If the decay isn’t too severe, a filling can be used – this removes the decayed area of tooth material before replacing it with customized composite fillings.
Crowns: In cases where there’s been more significant damage done by cavities, crowning may be necessary in order to safeguard and repair what remains of the tooth. This involves reshaping its surface so that a cap can then fit securely over top for protection against further destruction.
Root Canal Treatment: If a cavity has reached all the way down into pulp tissue or caused an infection within its depths, root canal therapy could provide much-needed relief from those symptoms — as well as successfully remove any infected areas present prior to sealing off whatever space is left behind with special fillers.
Extraction: If there’s extensive damage already incurred by decaying teeth, an extraction may be the only option left.
Cavity Prevention: Tips For Protecting Your Teeth and Maintaining Good Oral Health
If you want to make sure your teeth stay healthy and cavity-free, there are a few steps you can take.
- Brush twice a day with fluoride toothpaste
- Floss at least once a day to remove food particles between teeth
- Use an antibacterial mouthwash to kill bacteria that cause cavities
- Cut back on sugary and acidic foods and drinks
- Choose water over sugary drinks
- Chew sugar-free gum after meals to stimulate saliva flow and neutralize acids
- Get regular dental checkups and cleanings
- Consider dental sealants, a protective coating applied to the chewing surfaces of back teeth
- Replace your toothbrush every three months
At Summit Family & Cosmetic Dentistry we take dental care seriously. Our team provides excellent service through cutting-edge technology while always keeping patient comfort at heart! We understand just how important achieving good oral health is — let us help make sure you maintain yours safely today.
If you are looking for more information, schedule your appointment now!