Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment Options
Having cavities is always a problem. Besides having to put up with the tooth pain for a while, you will usually have to take time off from work to go to a dentist, too. Anyone can get a cavity, but some people seem to have more than others, and sometimes, they increase their own risk. By following some simple tips, you can reduce your risk for tooth cavities (also called dental caries) and enjoy better dental health.
Signs of a Cavity
When you have a cavity, you may or may not know it. Some of the cavity symptoms you may experience include:
- Brown, black, or white stains on your teeth
- Visible holes in your teeth
- Sensitive teeth when eating or drinking sweets, or hot or cold
- A toothache without obvious cause
- Pain when putting pressure on a tooth.
When looking at an x-ray of your teeth, a dentist can immediately spot a cavity. Even better, a dental laser can spot a tooth cavity that is not yet visible to the eye. Tooth decay in one tooth can lead to decay in a neighboring tooth.
Tooth Decay Causes
Tooth decay has two main causes – bacteria and acid. Your lifestyle and personal habits will add risk factors that will promote the development of these two causes in your mouth. They may include:
- Lack of Brushing Teeth
When you do not have a regular ongoing habit of brushing and flossing your teeth, you can expect to have more cavities than others. You should brush your teeth twice a day for about two minutes each time. Leaving the film that forms on your teeth (plaque) stay there without removing it for a day – and possibly longer, is simply asking for trouble.
The film is caused by bacteria that produce acid when you eat. When you leave that film on your teeth, you are letting the acid erode more of your enamel. It will slowly produce holes in the enamel that will lead to sensitive teeth and then to cavities. Since the enamel does not grow back, it is gone forever.
- Not Enough Flossing
While brushing your teeth will remove the plaque off of the surfaces of your teeth, it cannot remove the food particles and bacteria that are between your teeth. Flossing cleans up the spaces between your teeth, reducing your risk of a cavity, but you need to do it every day.
- Eating Too Much Sugar
You have probably heard that too much sugar is not a good thing for your teeth. It’s true. The bacteria that cause cavities feed on sugar, and they turn it into acid. Every time you take a bite or sip of something sweet, that bacteria will produce acid for the next 20 minutes. If you tend to eat sweets or sweetened drinks all day long, you will see rapid decay of the enamel on your teeth and many cavities. You can help stop tooth decay by reducing your daily sugar intake.
This means the more sugar you eat the more acid you will have in your mouth. Sodas are one of the worst things for your teeth. Besides having a lot of sugar – up to 10 teaspoons per can – they also have their own acid. This causes even more damage than most other foods and drinks. Citrus fruit also contains a lot of acid.
- Not Enough Saliva
Saliva provides some natural protection for your teeth. It helps to remove the bacteria and acid from your teeth. When you do not have enough, it enables the bacteria to multiply and stay on your teeth – producing acid and eroding the enamel. More than 500 medications will reduce your saliva, and so will several diseases, such as diabetes.
Some dental appliances also tend to restrict the flow of saliva over some areas of your mouth. This may include retainers, bite guards and orthodontic appliances.
If you have GERD, the strong acid from your stomach enters your mouth at night and may sit there for hours while you sleep. This will cause tooth decay on the inside of your lower front teeth. Bulimia and anorexia will also damage the teeth from excessive acid.
Tooth Decay Treatment
When you have a cavity, you will need tooth decay treatment to get your teeth back in good health. There are multiple treatments available to either repair damaged teeth or to prevent tooth cavities.
- Dental Filling – This is the most common method of repairing a tooth that has a cavity in it. The dentist drills out the decayed portion of the tooth, and then will fill it with a variety of substances including, amalgam fillings, white composite bonding material, or other metals.
- Dental Crowns – When a tooth has been badly damaged, the crown may need to be replaced in order to save the tooth.
- Tooth Replacement – In teeth that are severely damaged from decay, they may need to be extracted and tooth replacement options needed.
- Preventive Measures – In children and adults who are more likely to have cavities, the dentist can apply fluoride and dental sealants to prevent the bacteria and acid from damaging the tooth.
Preventing tooth cavities is important for the health of your mouth and beautiful smile. Taking care of teeth problems quickly will help you enjoy better dental health and less tooth decay.
Dr. Kumar T. Vadivel, DDS, MS, MBA, FDSRCS, a Board Certified Periodontist, can provide preventive dentistry to you and to all members of your family. He offers a wide range of dental services for all ages and accepts most dental health plans. His dental offices are located in the Carrollton, Cedar Hill, Mockingbird/SMU and Grapevine, TX areas. For a consultation or dental checkup, you can contact his ToothHQ office today..