From the moment you were first introduced to dental care as a kid, cavities were probably mentioned as arch enemy No. 1 to good dental health. In fact, cavities were the top reason why you should brush and floss daily.
And every parental figure and dentist that said so was absolutely right – because cavities are horrible for myriad reasons and are a sign of dental distress.
What Are Cavities?
Simply put, a cavity is a hole in your tooth caused by excessive decay. That decay is aided by several factors, and it is caused by a build-up of bacteria that penetrates the tooth’s surface. Once a cavity forms it cannot heal on its own and must be corrected by a dental professional – otherwise it could continue to grow and eventually lead to pain, infection, and even tooth loss.
Anyone with teeth is susceptible to cavities – from age 3 to 103 – so we must all be on guard to help prevent and address them when and if they do form. Some people are more prone to cavities than others due to a wide range of factors including genetics, poor hygiene, and diet (more on that later).
Once you develop a cavity, your tooth will never be quite the same as it was before, as cavities cause permanent structural damage. They can also cause pain, and, if left untreated, lead to more severe problems such as an infection of the affected tooth’s nerve and abscess – all of which could lead to the loss of the tooth or worse.
How Do Cavities Occur?
Cavities require both time and a specific set of circumstances to develop – and can usually be avoided by persistent oral health care, including daily brushing, flossing, and twice-yearly visits to the dentist.
The tooth decay that leads to cavities begins when the bacteria present in your mouth feeds off sugars in the food you also eat and begins to form a layer of plaque. If the plaque is not removed, it will harden and create a protective barrier for the bacteria. The acids present in plaque will then begin to erode the enamel that provides a natural protective barrier for your teeth. Once they penetrate the enamel, bacteria and plaque go to work on the softer layer beneath – called dentin, which can cause tooth sensitivity. Unabated, the culprits will continue to eat away at the tooth, attacking the inner pulp, which contains nerves and blood vessels. If ignored, this development can destroy the nerve inside the tooth and kill the tooth itself – a potentially very painful process.
Back teeth, often molars premolars, are most susceptible to decay because of their shape and are also harder to keep clean.
Risk Factors for Cavities
Tooth-decaying bacteria can be fostered by:
- Poor dental care – Cleaning your teeth consistently within hours (the sooner the better) of eating or drinking (anything other than water) is the best defense against cavities. Flouride is also a huge part of cavity defense, as this naturally occurring mineral helps shield your teeth and can even help reverse some initial tooth decay.
- Certain foods and drinks – Solids and liquids that contain sugars (even natural or organic) can cling to your teeth promote bacteria growth: The bacteria feeds off the sugar. Likewise, acidic foods and beverages work to wash away your teeth’s natural defenses, such as enamel. Sodas are especially problematic, as they contain both acids and sugars.
- Frequent snacking – Like all living things, bacteria must consume in order to thrive, and eating throughout the day promotes bacteria growth. It also does not give your mouth a chance to wash itself and heal via natural methods, such as saliva.
- Bedtime eating – Eating right before bed can be especially damaging – especially for infants – as it feeds bacteria and then allows them to grow undisturbed throughout the night.
- Dry mouth – A lack of saliva will leave your teeth exposed and more vulnerable to decay, as saliva both washes food particles away from your teeth as well as countering the levels of acid on your teeth.
- Heartburn and bulimia – The acids from your stomach that reflux into your mouth can cause significant damage to tooth enamel. This can happen due to Gastroesophageal Reflux (GERD) or through the eating disorder bulimia.
- Age – Younger and older mouths are more vulnerable to cavities, as children don’t often care for their teeth as they should. Meanwhile, older mouths begin to naturally lose enamel and gums also begin to recede, uncovering previously protected areas of your teeth.
- Old dental work – Unobserved, fillings and dental implants can wear out over time and encourage plaque buildup and decay in and around their ill fittings.
How Are Cavities Treated?
There are numerous treatment options for cavities, and which one you and your dentist choose will depend on several factors, including the stage of decay that you are suffering from.
Cavity treatments include:
- Fillings: If the cavity is small, the tooth can be restored with a filling. Dentists will remove the decayed portion of the tooth and fill it with a white composite filling or silver amalgam filling.
- Crowns: If a larger area of the tooth is decayed, it will require a crown that surrounds the entire tooth’s surface. Crowns are tooth-shaped caps that restore the decayed tooth back to its natural size, shape, and function.
- Root Canal: If the cavity progresses deeper and infects the tooth’s nerves, a root canal may be the recommended treatment. The center of your tooth, including the decayed area, blood vessels, and the nerve, will be removed and filled with a sealing material prior to a crown being positioned.
- Dental Implants or Fixed Bridges: For instances when the entire tooth is affected and requires extraction, dental implants or fixed bridges are solutions that will restore tooth functionality and appearance.
The BGW Difference
Our expert dentists, hygienists and assistants can provide a number of treatments that can remedy any cavity. And we excel at providing pain-free and worry-free care. We do this by providing a warm and welcoming atmosphere, as well as the latest in dental care – allied with tried-and-true practices that produce results.
That includes sedation dentistry, which will allow even the most nervous patients to benefit from precision care without discomfort or fear.
However, at BGW, we also know that the best cavity treatment is prevention, which is why we preach strong oral health care and twice-yearly examinations and cleanings at the dentist.
However, if you find yourself dealing with a cavity, do not hesitate to seek treatment. Our staff will fully evaluate your oral health and may treat your cavity via the cutting-edge method available in all three of our locations throughout north Georgia. And whatever your need, we will tailor-make your oral care to suit your specific situation.
If you believe you have a cavity, please get in touch with our offices today at 678-582-8099 and let us help you quickly get back to enjoying life and smiling again.