Everything You’ve Ever Wanted to Know About Cavities (But Were Afraid to Ask)
Let’s face it: most of us would love to have a more beautiful smile. But it’s not all about having straight, white teeth. It’s also important that our teeth are truly healthy.
Cavities are a worry for many of us, but the potentially harmful effects dental caries are often minimized. Contrary to what you might think, cavities can become a big deal in a short period of time. To preserve your overall health, you should do everything you can to prevent cavities before they form. But even when that isn’t possible, you should make it a point to see your dental specialists regularly to obtain proper treatment for cavities.
In today’s post, we’ll discuss everything you’ve ever wanted to know (and probably more) about this type of dental decay. We hope that gaining a greater understanding of cavities will encourage you to seek out dental services whenever they’re needed.
What Are Cavities, Anyway?
Although 78% of Americans have had at least one cavity by the time they turn 17, many of us don’t know what cavities actually are. Simply put, a cavity is a hole that forms in a tooth. This type of damage or dental decay can be caused by plaque, which is a substance that forms when bacteria, saliva, food particles, and acid are combined. Because plaque naturally sticks to the teeth (especially without proper dental care), the tooth enamel will slowly erode and lead to decay.
How Can I Prevent Cavities?
As New Orleans dentists will tell you, there are a number of ways that cavities can be prevented. You might have already guessed that proper brushing and flossing play a role here. It’s important to use a soft-bristled toothbrush at least twice a day; ideally, you’ll want to brush after meals, as well as part of your morning and bedtime routines. You should hold your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle and brush for around two minutes in gentle, circular motions. You should also use dental floss to remove trapped food particles between your teeth. Be sure to finish with a mouthwash recommended by dental specialists!
Brushing and flossing aren’t the only things you can to do prevent cavities. It’s also a good idea to quit smoking, drink more water, and take a closer look at your diet. Foods like chips, pretzels, and candies or acidic and sugary drinks can stick to the enamel of your teeth and increase your cavity risk. While there’s nothing that says you have to cut these foods out of your diet completely, it might be a worthwhile endeavor to re-examine what you’re snacking on. Fresh fruits and vegetables — especially apples, carrot sticks, radishes, and celery — can be a great way to end a meal because these foods will naturally help your mouth create saliva and clear away stickier food particles. Although you should still try to brush after every meal, these natural foods can help you until you are able to get to your toothbrush.
Regular dental visits are also an important aspect of cavity prevention. You might assume that dental specialists are only helpful when it comes to identifying the presence of a cavity. But the staff at your dental office can also offer advice that can help you stay cavity-free. They may also offer preventative treatments that will lower your risk of developing a cavity in the first place. Don’t assume that cavity prevention is a strictly at-home job. Dental specialists often play an important role in this process, particularly when patients are young.
How Can I Tell If I Have a Cavity?
Despite all of your best efforts, cavities may still form. So how can you tell if you have one? Having an exam performed at your dentist’s office is typically the best way to confirm the existence of a cavity, but you might also be tipped off by the following symptoms:
- Tooth sensitivity
- Tooth pain
- Discomfort when drinking or eating
- Visible staining on the tooth’s surface
- Pain upon biting down
- Visible holes or pits
It’s important to note that cavities typically start out with very few symptoms — which is one of the reasons why regular dental visits are so important. By the time you realize you might have a cavity, the amount of decay may already be fairly advanced. If you notice any of the aforementioned symptoms, it’s a good idea to contact dental specialists in your area.
What Happens If I Leave a Cavity Alone?
We mentioned above that early dental intervention is necessary when it comes time to treat a cavity. But do cavities really need to be treated?
The answer is an emphatic “yes.” Cavities will not simply disappear on their own. They will only get worse over time. If a cavity goes unaddressed, the risks can become pretty severe. Although advanced dental decay won’t happen overnight, there are a number of complications that can develop due to untreated dental caries.
For example, you might develop a tooth abscess; this abscess can become infected and can even be life-threatening. Even if your cavity doesn’t get to that point, you could be faced with constant tooth pain, increase your risk of chipping or breaking a tooth, or have extreme difficulty chewing your food. Should a cavity get to this point, tooth removal may be your only option. Not only can this alter your appearance, but it can also be quite expensive to fix. In the end, it’s much better to treat a cavity early on — or avoid it entirely, if you can.
How Are Cavities Treated?
Dental specialists will treat cavities in a number of different ways. Depending on how advanced the decay is, your dentist might recommend:
- Fluoride treatments
- Tooth fillings
- Dental crowns
- Root canals
- Tooth extraction
It’s a good idea to talk with trusted dental specialists in your area to determine the best option for your situation and for your budget. In the event that a tooth needs to be removed due to advanced decay, it may be possible to place a dental implant or bridge to maintain visual appeal.
Cavities Are Common — But You Can Avoid Them
At some point, it’s probable that you could develop a cavity or two. Even if you’ve had an impressive lack of dental decay, changing lifestyles can result in a dropoff of dental habits. If you’re worried you have a cavity or if your dentist has informed you that dental caries are present, that doesn’t mean your health is automatically at risk. If these cavities are identified and treated quickly, the procedures are relatively simple to perform and will ease your discomfort.
If you do develop a cavity, it’s best not to delay treatment. But prevention is worth a pound of cure — so anything you can do to improve your oral health before tooth decay takes hold is obviously preferable. By following the recommendations laid out by dental specialists and prioritizing your oral health, you can do your part to prevent dental caries and safeguard your overall well-being.
Your smile is one of your best assets — and it’s important to keep it in excellent condition. Whether you’re worried about cavity development or you’re simply long overdue for a routine checkup, our staff is here for you. For additional information about the dental services we provide, please contact Comfort Smiles Dentistry today.