- by Dr. Karanjit Dhillon
- September 23, 2022
The Cavity or Dental Decay-An Overview
A hole that forms in the tooth when the acids present in the mouth wear down or erodes the enamel is called a Cavity.
Starting as a small hole, a cavity increases in size over some time when left untreated and can cause toothaches, infection, and even extractions.
Cavities are generally painless at the beginning and thus they can go undiagnosed till they become worse.
Cavities are one of the most common chronic diseases affecting all ages and can be prevented by proper brushing, flossing, and regular dental cleanings.
Who Can Get a Cavity?
Though more common in children because of improper brushing and consumption of sugary foods, people of any age can get cavities and tooth decay.
However, cavities are quite common in adults also, and sometimes, new decay may develop around the peripheries of cavities that were treated in childhood.
Adults are more prone to receding gums, a condition that exposes the lower parts of teeth to plaque that can be cavity-causing.
What are the Causes of the Dental Decay or Cavities?
The hard, protective coating on the teeth that protects against tooth decay is known as Enamel.
The softening and weakening of the enamel and dentine tooth due to an acid attack after eating or drinking anything containing sugar can start dental decay. These acids can form a cavity in the tooth over time.
The Bacteria in your mouth feed and thrive on sugary, starchy foods and drinks in the process of converting their carbohydrates into acids. A sticky coating called Plaque forms on the teeth.
Plaque is a combination of :
Lack of adequate brushing and flossing leads to the acids in plaque eroding the tooth enamel resulting in cavities.
Who is at Risk of Cavities?
Cavities can happen to anyone. However, some people are at a higher risk. Risk factors for cavities include:
- Consumption of too much of sugary or acidic foods & drinks
- Poor oral hygiene routine for example lack of brushing and flossing daily.
- Fluoride deficiency
- Dry mouth
- Eating disorders, like anorexia and bulimia
- Acid reflux disease, which can cause the stomach acid to wear down your tooth enamel
- Ailments like Sjogren’s syndrome or taking medications like antidepressants can cause dry mouth leading to cavities
- Radiation therapy of the head and neck area
The dental specialists at Morgan Hill Dentistry explain that the back teeth are more prone to cavities as these teeth have grooves and spaces that can trap food particles. Also, these teeth are harder to reach and thus neglected while brushing and flossing.
Also Read: All About Teeth Whitening Treatment
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Cavities?
There is usually no pain or symptoms caused by tooth decay on the outer enamel surface. However, the symptoms appear as the decay progresses into the dentin and root and these symptoms usually depend on the severity of the disease.
Common Signs and symptoms of cavities are:
- Bad breath or a foul taste in the mouth.
- Gums that bleed or show any other signs of gum disease.
- Swelling of the face.
- Toothache or pain in the mouth.
- Sensitivity to hot or cold foods or drinks.
- Redness around or inside the mouth
- Visible hole in the teeth
- Black or white staining on the teeth
How can Cavities or Dental Decay be Prevented?
Tooth cavities and dental decay can be prevented to a great extent by:
- Brushing the teeth at least twice a day
- Flossing Daily
- Reducing the consumption of Sugary & acidic foods like candies, sweets, sodas, etc
- Regular Dental checkups at least twice a year
- Dental sealants can protect the top chewing surfaces of the teeth.
There are some Foods that are known to help fight tooth decay. These include:
- Fruits and vegetables rich in fiber
- Foods rich in calcium
- Unsweetened black or green tea
However, at the same time, you must visit your dentist twice a year for regular tooth cleaning as this can go a long way in preventing decay of teeth and the formation of cavities.
Diagnosis & Treatment
The dentist diagnoses a cavity using different devices and an oral examination. Some X-rays are also taken as these can show the cavities even before the decay is visible.
Once the cavity has been diagnosed, it can be treated through the following options. The treatment option generally depends on the severity of the decay.
The decay that is caught early, can be treated with a fluoride treatment. Known as mineralization, this can restore tooth enamel. The treatment includes prescription toothpaste, mouthwash, as well as fluoride treatment at the dental office.
The dentists drill out the decayed material from the tooth and fill the cavity with dental fillings made of silver amalgam, composite resin, or gold.
In the cases where the decay is more severe, the dentist places a custom-fit cap over the tooth to replace the natural dental crown.
The dentist performs a root canal to save the tooth and relieve the patient of pain, in cases where the decay has led to the death of the nerves.
The nerves and blood vessel tissues & any decayed areas of the tooth are first removed by the dentist and the tooth is checked for infection and medication is applied to the roots. The tooth is finally filled and a crown is placed on it.
There are some cases where a root canal is not a possibility, and the tooth may need to be pulled. A dental implant can be suggested to replace a pulled-out permanent tooth. Implants also prevent the teeth from shifting and the change in appearance and bite.
How can the Pain of Tooth Cavity be Managed?
The pain and discomfort from the cavity can be temporarily relieved while one waits for the dentist appointment.
Our dentists at Morgan Hill Dentistry suggest the following techniques to keep you comfortable as you wait for your appointment.
- Maintain a good oral hygiene routine like brushing and cleaning all parts of the mouth, inclusive of sensitive areas at least twice a day.
- Over-the-counter pain relievers can be taken to relieve pain.
- Be wise with your food choices and avoid foods with extreme hot or cold temperatures
A Word from Morgan Hill Dentistry
Dental cavities are a common problem that can be prevented by regular dental checkups and maintaining good oral hygiene.
Latest dental treatments like dental sealants and fluoride rinses can lower the risk of cavities, especially in children and teenagers.
Our dentists make sure that they educate our patients about the steps that can be taken to protect their oral health and prevent cavities.
It is important to keep in mind that an untreated tooth cavity can sometimes lead to complications like persistent tooth pain, and an infected tooth abscess, which can also trigger life-threatening complications if the infection enters the bloodstream or sepsis happens.
Pus may also develop around the infected tooth and there may be an increased risk for breaking or chipping of a tooth and you may face difficulty in chewing food.
Putting off seeing your dentist for a long time can cause irreversible damage to your tooth leaving tooth extraction as the only option.
Action in time can save your tooth and smile. If you are suffering from any dental emergency, our emergency dentist is here to help you in the best way possible.
We take every care to ensure your comfort and safety first. Call for an appointment or book online.