Everyone is susceptible to cavities, but they can be prevented with a diligent home care regimen that includes regular brushing at least twice a day and flossing once per day.
When the food we eat interact with bacteria in our mouths, the result is a chemical reaction that produces acid. This acid can erode tooth enamel (the white part of the teeth that we can see). This causes the tooth to decay. Eventually, a small hole will form in the tooth’s enamel surface and this is a cavity. As it grows, it’s an open door to infection and further decay that weakens the tooth and leads to pain and tooth loss.
Initially, you may not experience any symptoms of having a cavity. However, as the cavity progresses, these are some of the telltale signs:
- tooth sensitivity
- pain and discomfort when you bite down
- minor to substantial pain when drinking or eating anything hold, cold, or sweet
- staining on the tooth surface
- toothache or sudden pain that appears to come out of nowhere.
In addition to decay on the enamel crown of a tooth, here are two other places that are vulnerable…
- Root Cavity – Gum disease, or aggressive brushing, causes gums to recede, exposing the root and making it vulnerable to acid attacks. Root structure is softer than enamel so cavities can form easily. According to one statistic, 10-20% of cavities start to form below the gumline. Who is most likely to develop a root cavity? Root cavities regularly show up in adults over the age of 50, according to the American Dental Association. And when people hit the age of 70, they are the perfect age for root decay.
- Recurrent Decay – This is when a previously placed filling becomes compromised and the edges (or margins) of the filling or broken edges of the filling snag food and allow bacteria to seep underneath it. Because of the location of the bacteria, it can’t be removed with a regular toothbrush. And because it doesn’t get removed, decay reoccurs.
What’s the best way to prevent cavities?
Good home care and see us at least twice a year for checkups and oral hygiene care. Brush for two minutes twice a day and floss once and eat a balanced diet.
What are the risk factors for developing cavities?
- Regular consumption of sugary foods, snacks, and drinks.
- Inadequate oral hygiene habits.
- Position of the tooth. Decay is prone to happen in the back of your mouth and targets premolars and molars.
- Lack of fluoride. This naturally occurring mineral is a good line of defense when it comes to stopping cavities in their tracks. In fact, it can completely reverse the very early stages of damage sustained by the tooth.
- Dry mouth.
- Eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia.
- Acid reflux or GERD.
- Compromised dental fillings or dental devices. When these begin to break down, it’s easier for plaque to form in these locations.
- Infant feeding at nighttime. If babies with teeth (or even teeth buds) consume milk, juice, or anything else sugary, that will coat their teeth and stay on it throughout the night. This dental harm is known as baby bottle tooth decay. Young children who drink from sippy cups before bed are also at risk… so it’s best not to give them one of these beverages at this time of day. Instead, quench their thirst with a water only.
As your dental team, we practice preventive dentistry and we always monitor potential problem areas and catch and repair small cavities before they grow larger and cause more extensive and expensive damage. By visiting us regularly, you are being proactive in keeping harmful cavities at bay. This will potentially minimize the number of necessary dental visits in the future – and you won’t have to spend as much money on reversing the damage.
What are some options for fillings?
There are a number of options for dental fillings, and together, we’ll choose what’s best for your unique situation:
- Tooth-colored composite fillings match your natural tooth-color and are used on teeth in your smile zone (those that are visible when you smile) and for molars.
- Silver-colored fillings (amalgam) have been used for years. Their popularity is waning as they are less attractive than tooth-colored composite. For some people, amalgam can also cause sensitivity when drinking or eating hot or cold foods as the fillings expand and contract when exposed to extreme temperatures.
- Cast-gold fillings are durable and, for some, make a personal statement. As you can imagine, gold fillings are on the top end of the expense scale.
If you’re looking for a dentist in Forest Hill for your family, we’d be very pleased to welcome you to our practice, check the condition of your fillings, and talk about what could help you smile more! Call us at 647-691-2213 to request your appointment today!