Cavities are permanently damaged areas in the teeth that create small holes. Decay can affect a tooth’s outer coating (enamel) and the inner layer (dentin). While cavities are most common among children, teens and adults can also develop tooth decay.
If you’ve recently been told you or your child has a cavity, don’t worry. Cavities are very common and can usually be treated if discovered early. Learn more about cavities, how they form, symptoms you may encounter, and what treatments are available.
How Do Cavities Form?
Cavities do not form overnight. This process begins when plaque, a clear sticky film, accumulates on the teeth. If not removed with regular brushing, plaque can harden into tartar which can only be removed by a Clermont dental professional. The acids in plaque cause the enamel to lose minerals, leading to the development of small holes. This is the first stage of a cavity.
Over time, enamel wears away from the tooth and the acid and bacteria begin to affect the underlying layer of the tooth, called dentin. This softer layer is less resistant to acid and is in direct communication with the tooth nerve, often resulting in sensitivity. As the cavity gets worse, the decay can spread to the inner tooth material, called the pulp, which contains blood vessels and nerves. Pain can occur when the nerves are affected.
What Are Some Common Symptoms?
Symptoms of a cavity can vary depending on the extent of the decay and where in the mouth it’s located. It’s normal to have no symptoms when a cavity first develops but as the decay starts to spread, symptoms can develop and worsen in severity. Some of the most common signs and symptoms of cavities include:
- Tooth pain or toothache
- Pits or holes in a tooth
- Tooth sensitivity
- Pain when eating or drinking something sweet, cold, or hot
- White, black, or brown tooth stains
- Pain that occurs when biting down
How Are Cavities Treated?
Treatment of a cavity is based on a variety of factors, such as the size of the cavity, how much natural tooth structure remains, and the patient’s overall oral health. A filling is the most common treatment for a cavity. During a filling, the decay is removed and the hole is filled with filling material, such as silver alloy, porcelain, composite resin, or gold.
If the tooth is badly decayed and there is not sufficient enamel left on the tooth, your dentist may recommend a crown. Similar to a filling, the decayed portion of the tooth is removed and the damage is repaired. Next, a crown is constructed of porcelain, gold, or porcelain fused to metal and placed over the repaired tooth.
If the root or pulp of the tooth is dead or so damaged that it cannot be repaired, a root canal may be a suitable treatment. During a root canal, the tooth’s blood vessels, nerve, tissue, and the decayed portion of the tooth are removed. The roots are then filled with a sealing material and a crown is placed to further protect the tooth.
How Can Cavities Be Prevented?
Practicing good oral health is key to preventing cavities. Here are some simple tips to help you avoid tooth decay and other oral health problems.
- Brush twice a day with fluoride toothpaste. Ideally, you also want to brush after every meal to prevent a buildup of plaque and bacteria.
- Rinse with mouthwash. If you are at an increased risk of cavities, your dentist may recommend rinsing daily with a mouthwash that contains fluoride.
- Drink tap water. Many public water supplies now contain added fluoride. If you only drink bottled water, consider switching to tap water to get these benefits.
- Consume a healthy diet. The foods you eat can have a direct impact on your oral health. Avoid foods that get stuck in the grooves of the teeth.
Contact Hancock Village Dental
One of the best ways to prevent cavities is to visit your dentist regularly. For more information about cavities or to schedule an appointment with our dentist in Clermont FL, contact Hancock Village Dental today.