Cavities! It’s a word that we all dread when we go to the dentist, but understanding a little more about the causes of cavities and how they are treated may help to alleviate some of this fear.
Cavities are caused by the destruction or weakening of your tooth enamel. Tooth enamel is the hard covering over the tooth that helps to protect the underlying bone and interior of the tooth.
Cavities can occur in children, teenagers, and adults, so it’s important to maintain as much of your enamel as possible.
As you consume sugary foods and beverages throughout the day, a sticky residue builds up on the teeth. Plaque, a sticky form of bacteria, is then attracted to the sugars on your teeth. As the
bacteria grows on your teeth, they excrete an acid that can deteriorate the tooth’s enamel, which over time begins to break down. This breakdown is what creates a cavity.
Cavities occur more frequently in children but can become an increasing concern with age as well. As the gums recede, it exposes weaker portions of the teeth that are more susceptible to cavities. This gum recession can also expose the roots of the tooth and any damage to the root may lead to tooth loss.
Cavities also form in older adults around fillings or dental work. This can be because the tooth has lost a large amount of enamel that younger individuals have not, but may also be attributed to the lack of modern dental work. Older dental work typically doesn’t hold well around the edges and exposes the underlying tooth to damage and decay.
When the enamel of the tooth becomes too weak, small holes will start to develop in the actual tooth. If this is the case, your dentist will need to fix the problem, most likely with a filling, or else it will become worse.
Fillings are placed when dentists remove all the damaged tooth and other material from the small hole and then fill the hole with a substance to block any future damage to that part of the tooth. Fillings are made with resins or a combination of materials to protect the tooth.
There are some simple tricks that people can use to avoid or lessen the amount and severity of cavities that they get over the course of their lives.
Brush twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste – Brushing twice a day helps to remove the buildup of sugars and bacteria on your teeth. Toothpaste that contains fluoride helps to maintain the tooth’s natural enamel.
Clean between your teeth every day – The use of floss or an interdental cleaner can help to remove food or sugars that get caught between the teeth and are not removed by brushing.
Ask your dentist about supplemental fluoride – Many municipal water supplies are treated with fluoride to help the entire population’s dental health. However, if you don’t live in one of these areas or you have issues with cavities, you should ask your dentist about adding supplemental fluoride to your health plan.