What are cavities?
Cavities are holes that form in your teeth. These holes occur when bacteria in your mouth react with the sugars from the food and drinks you consume. The bacteria produce acids that attack and destroy the hard outer coating of your teeth (enamel). When this happens, a cavity form. Cavities can develop at any age, but they are most common in children and teenagers whose permanent teeth are coming in.
Unlike a lot of other health concerns, you have some control over cavities. You play a major role in keeping your mouth healthy by regularly brushing and flossing your teeth and visiting your dentist for regular cleanings and check-ups.
Most cavities are small when they first form. It can take many years for a cavity to enlarge and cause pain or symptoms like toothaches, tooth sensitivity or bad breath.
It is important to treat cavities early so they do not get worse and require more extensive treatment. Regular dental visits are an important part of preventing cavities.
What causes cavities?
Cavities result from a combination of sugar and not enough fluoride. The most common culprit is a bacterium known as Streptococcus mutants, which live in the mouth and feed on sugar, creating acid that wears away at the tooth enamel. Left untreated, this will eventually lead to a cavity forming underneath the enamel.
Cavities are caused by bacteria that form plaque on teeth. Plaque is a sticky film made up of bacteria, food particles and saliva. It constantly forms on the surface of your teeth. If not removed, plaque hardens into tartar, which triggers enamel breakdown.
Most of us know that sugary snacks and drinks can cause cavities, but there is little evidence to show that sugar-free products do any better at protecting your teeth than water.
Symptoms of tooth cavities
Cavities in your teeth can cause pain, swelling, and even infection. They are also unsightly, which is why it is important to catch cavities before they get worse.
The most common signs of tooth decay are:
- Sensitivity to hot or cold
- Tooth pain — especially during eating or drinking hot or cold foods and drink smooth sensitivity
- A hole in your teeth which can be visible
- Stain on your teeth white or black
Causes of tooth cavities
A tooth cavity is an area in the tooth that has been attacked by acidic plaque. The acid dissolves tooth enamel, and the decay deepens into the dentin.
Bacteria — living microorganisms that exist naturally in our mouths because they help us digest food.
Saliva — produced by our salivary glands and mouth to keep our mouths moist and clean.
Acid — produced by bacteria when they digest various sugars in food
Food particles — leftovers that stick around after we eat something sweet.
In a perfect world, these ingredients would be harmless. Unfortunately, we live in an imperfect world where plaque hardens into tartar (calculus), which leads to tooth decay (caries). The longer plaque stays on your teeth, the more likely it is for tartar to form and for tooth decay to occur.
Cavities can be hard to avoid if you have tooth enamel that is thin, damaged or lacks minerals. This occurs as a result of:
• Not brushing your teeth regularly, or using toothpaste that contains too much fluoride
• Infection from untreated cavities
• Not getting enough calcium in your diet
• Aging (as enamel naturally erodes over time)
When common cavity-causing bacteria, such as Streptococcus mutans, attack your enamel and irritate the dentin layer beneath it, it can cause the tissue in your teeth to break down and form holes known as cavities.
Cavities occur when bacteria start to attack the soft tissue inside your teeth.
Treatment options for tooth cavities
Bacteria cause tooth decay. The bacteria produce acid that destroys the hard outer layer of the tooth (enamel). This exposes the softer inner layer (dentin). If the decay is not removed, it can eventually eat through the dentin, causing a cavity.
A dentist can treat a cavity in two ways:
1. Fill it with a filling material.
2. Remove the decayed part of the tooth and fill the hole with a porcelain crown or dental implant.
Doctors recommend filling cavities because they are less expensive, quick to perform, and usually more effective than other treatments in preventing tooth damage.
Decay might seem like a minor problem, but it can lead to tooth loss and even infection if left untreated. Fortunately, there are several ways to treat cavities, from early-stage treatment to root canal therapy.
The most common treatment for tooth decay is a filling, also called a dental restoration or filling. This involves removing decayed or infected tissue and replacing it with a substance that fills the cavity and makes the tooth strong again.
A crown is a cap that fits over a tooth’s rounded surface. A crown can be made of gold alloys, porcelain fused to metal, porcelain-fused-to-porcelain, or porcelain alone. Crowns are usually placed on the outside of a tooth to cover an exposed root structure or to protect a weak tooth from fracturing.
A dentist creates an acrylic filling by applying liquid plastic to the cavity. Once hardened, the plastic is shaped and smoothed to match your natural tooth and is then polished. Acrylic fillings are used to treat cavities in teeth that are not visible when you smile, like molars.
Your dentist uses an abrasion tool, water pick, and hand instruments to clean out the decayed area then places a plastic filling material inside your tooth.
If you have one or more damaged back teeth that are sensitive to hot and cold foods,
A root canal may be necessary if you have experienced complications from a cavity. A small chip in your enamel might not require a root canal, but if you experience pain or sensitivity in some way — or if your dentist notices discolouration — contact them right away for an assessment. Early-stage treatment
How can you deal with your pain?
Having a cavity is never pleasant, but there are some things you can do to ease the discomfort until you can see your dentist. For example, you can:
• Take over-the-counter painkillers- Look for a doctor’s note if you think your dentist may have prescribed painkillers that are OTC.
• Use anaesthetics- Your dentist might recommend prescription anaesthetics if you are having extensive dental work done.
• Take a warm bath- The warmth and moisture will soothe any irritation in your mouth. Try putting salt or baking soda in the water.
It is important that you seek treatment for toothaches if they last longer than three days, if you have a fever, because they are interfering with your ability to eat or sleep, or because they are causing an infection in your gums.
Preventing tooth cavities
Preventing tooth cavities comes down to being a good steward of your teeth.
- Brushing regularly is one of the most important things you can do. Be sure to brush for 2 minutes, at least twice per day. This can help prevent bacteria from sticking around long enough to eat through the protective enamel on your teeth and cause cavities.
- Flossing is also key, as it helps remove bacteria and food particles that could otherwise build up and cause decay. Floss once per day, using an 18-inch length of floss and working in a gentle “S” shape against the side of each tooth. Try not to snap the floss into your gums — this can cause irritation and can be harmful over time.
- Dental sealants are another way to protect your teeth from tooth decay caused by plaque and food debris build-up. A sealant is a plastic-like coating that is applied to the chewing surface of your molars (back teeth). The sealant fills in areas where you are most likely to have gum disease or develop cavities and helps prevent cavities from forming there in the future.
- Treating cavities early helps prevent complications like tooth loss or infection, so it pays to take care of your teeth now.
Good dental health is all about prevention. One of the most important things you can do to prevent tooth decay is to brush and floss your teeth regularly.
For those with time-consuming jobs, a trip to the dentist just is not possible — or affordable — every six months. However, there are some foods that promote good dental health and can help fight tooth decay.
Here are five foods that can help promote good dental health:
• Fiber-rich fruits and vegetables: Some of the best sources of fibre include apples, raisins, oranges, carrots and spinach. Fibre helps remove plaque from teeth, which can lead to tooth decay if left on the teeth for too long.
• Calcium-rich foods: Milk is a great source of calcium, which helps promote strong bones. Stronger bones mean stronger teeth and gums, as well as healthier periodontal tissues around the teeth.
• Xylitol sugarless chewing gum: Xylitol is a natural sweetener that helps reduce bacteria in the mouth. It is also helpful for people who have dry mouths because it is less harmful than artificial sweeteners like saccharin or aspartame.
Getting rid of cavities at home
There are several ways to remove cavities at home using only treatments found in the kitchen or pantry. However, what you eat matters just as much as how you brush your teeth when it comes to dental health.
In 1930, a study was conducted that showed that children who got enough vitamin D in their diet were less likely to develop cavities. They also found that children who removed grain from their diets had better results. This suggests that grains, what you eat matter just as much as how you brush your teeth when it comes to dental health might be sticking to the teeth and causing problems with tooth decay.
If you are looking for home remedies for cavities, here are some suggestions:
Sugar-free gum: Chew sugar-free gum after every meal. The act of chewing will help get rid of any food debris on your teeth and clear your mouth of bad breath-causing particles. The more you chew, the better you will feel about yourself! Plus, frequent chewing can improve blood circulation in your gums (source). The sooner you deal with food stuck between your teeth, the sooner you will have a smooth mouth again!
Dental floss: Flossing daily is essential to healthy gums because it helps keep bacteria out of your mouth and removes food particles stuck between your teeth (source). It also helps remove plaque build-up.
Eat a Healthy Diet
A healthy diet is essential to maintaining good dental health. Sugars and starches are the main culprits in causing cavities, so limiting these foods in your diet will help reduce your risk of developing them. Use fluoridated toothpaste; Brush gently and Eat less sugary foods.
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