A cavity, also called tooth decay, is a hole that forms in
your tooth. Cavities start small and gradually become bigger when they’re left
untreated. Since many cavities don’t cause pain in the beginning, it can be
hard to realize that a problem exists. Regular dental appointments can detect
tooth decay early.
According to the Mayo
Clinic, cavities and tooth decay are some of the most common health
problems in the world. Anyone with teeth can develop cavities, including babies.
Finding out that you have a cavity might come as a surprise.
This is especially true if you think you have a good oral hygiene routine. However,
even if your dentist delivers this news, there are ways to treat a cavity and
prevent new ones from forming.
Symptoms of Tooth Cavities
The symptoms of a cavity depend on the severity of the
decay. They include:
visible hole in your teeth
or white staining on your teeth
Causes of Tooth Cavities
Tooth cavities are caused by plaque, a sticky substance that
binds to teeth. Plaque is a combination of:
- food particles
Everyone has bacteria in their mouth. After eating or
drinking foods with sugar, bacteria in your mouth turn sugar into acid. Plaque
starts forming on your teeth soon after eating or drinking anything sugary.
This is why regular brushing is important.
Plaque sticks to your teeth, and the acid in plaque can
slowly erode tooth enamel. Enamel is a hard, protective coating on your teeth
that protects against tooth decay. As your tooth enamel weakens, the risk for
Everyone is at risk for cavities, but some people have a
higher risk. Risk factors include:
many sugary or acidic foods and drinks
- a poor
oral hygiene routine, such as failing to brush or floss daily
getting enough fluoride
disorders, such as anorexia and bulimia
reflux disease, which can result in stomach acid wearing down your tooth
Cavities develop more often in the back teeth, according to
Clinic. These teeth have grooves and openings that can trap food particles.
Also, these teeth are sometimes harder to reach when brushing and flossing.
Treatment Options for Tooth Cavities
Tell your doctor about uncomfortable symptoms like tooth
sensitivity or pain. Your dentist can identify tooth decay after an oral exam.
However, some cavities aren’t visible from an oral exam. So, your dentist may
use a dental X-ray to look for decay.
Treatment options depend on severity. There are several ways
to treat a cavity.
A dentist uses a drill and removes decayed material from a
tooth. Your dentist then fills your tooth with a substance, such as silver,
gold, or composite resin.
For more severe decay, your dentist may place a custom fit
cap over your tooth to replace its natural crown. Your dentist will remove decayed
tooth material before starting this procedure.
When tooth decay causes the death of your nerves, your
dentist will perform a root canal to save your tooth. They remove the nerve
tissue, blood vessel tissues, and any decayed areas of your tooth. Your dentist
will also check for infections and apply medication to the roots as needed.
They’ll fill the tooth, and sometimes they’ll place a crown on it.
If your dentist detects a tooth cavity in its early stage, a
fluoride treatment may restore your tooth enamel and prevent further decay.
Dealing with Pain
Cavities and tooth decay can be the cause of a lot of pain
and discomfort. You may want to find ways to soothe irritation while you wait
for your dentist appointment. According to the Mayo
Clinic, there are a few things you can do to deal with discomfort
up your oral hygiene routine. Continue
to brush and clean all parts of your mouth, including any sensitive areas.
over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers. Check
with your doctor if you can use OTC anesthetics.
what you eat. Stay away from
extremely hot or cold foods when eating or drinking.
Complications from Tooth Cavities
A tooth cavity can cause a variety of complications if it’s
left untreated. These include:
tooth abscess, which can become infected and trigger life-threatening
complications, like an infection that enters the bloodstream or sepsis
- the development
of pus around the infected tooth
- an increased
risk for breaking or chipping a tooth
You may cause damage to your tooth that can’t be reversed if
you put off seeing a dentist. At this point, the only way to fix the cavity is
for your dentist to remove the tooth and replace it with an implant or bridge.
Preventing Tooth Cavities
Tooth cavities are a common dental problem, but you can
reduce your risk by doing the following:
- Brush your teeth at least twice per day with a
- Floss at least once daily, as recommended by
- Eat fewer sugary and acidic foods, like sweets,
candy, juice, soda, and refined carbohydrates.
- Limit snacking between meals.
The following foods can help fight tooth decay:
- fiber-rich fruits and vegetables
- calcium-rich foods
- xylitol sugarless chewing gum
- unsweetened black or green tea
- water with fluoride
Also, don’t forget to visit your dentist at least twice per
year for regular teeth cleanings. This allows you to get treatment for any
problems your dentist finds, and it will help prevent future dental problems.