Cavities, also called tooth decay or caries, are holes in the teeth. Tooth decay is a common condition in both children and adults. Caused by bacteria, tooth decay can lead to tooth loss, which may require treatment with a dental implant.
Cavities begin when bacteria forms on the teeth in a sticky substance called plaque. Plaque adheres to the teeth and, if not brushed and flossed away, it becomes tartar, a harder substance that irritates the gums and leads to periodontal disease called gingivitis. Additionally, plaque contains an acid that slowly dissolves the tooth’s enamel surface, creating the hole we call a cavity. Usually, we do not realize we have cavities until they grow larger and begin to destroy the nerve inside the tooth, causing pain.
Interestingly, plaque begins developing on the teeth within twenty minutes after eating. This is why dentists frequently remind us to brush and floss immediately after eating. If you cannot brush and floss right away, be sure to develop a solid routine of good oral home care that includes regular brushing and flossing daily, and using an antiseptic mouth rinse if possible. Of course, visiting your dentist once every six months is a wonderful form of prevention as well.
Foolds high in sugar and starch contribute to tooth decay. Sticky foods, like candy and other snack foods are also culprits. If you eat sticky foods and snack frequently, adjust your home care routine to include additional brushing, and be sure to floss properly to get into all those hidden places around your teeth and under the gum line where bacteria is fond of forming.
If a cavity forms on a tooth, your dentist will first remove the decay and then fill the hole with a porcelain tooth-colored filling or a composite resin. If decay is severe, you may also require a porcelain crown. In some cases, root canal therapy is needed to remove the center of the tooth where nerves, pulp and blood vessels may have also decayed. Root canal therapy also includes filling the space with tooth-colored filling material or a composite resin, and a crown is always required.
To learn more about tooth decay, visit Rochester Advanced Dentistry. If you think you’re suffering from tooth decay, please schedule a visit with Dr. Jeffery Haddad and Dr. Kurt Doolin, two highly experienced dentists who can treat your cavity and help you understand how to prevent new cavities from forming in the future.