Tooth decay is a nuisance but it’s something we only really notice when it’s gotten to a point where the cavity interferes with our regular life. In this article, we’ll be discussing the symptoms, causes, risk factors, prevention tips, and how to prevent cavities.
Signs and Symptoms of Cavities
Cavity symptoms are straightforward and are often already reason enough for concern once you feel them. The following are signs and symptoms of tooth decay:
- Having toothache or pain with no discernible cause or when you’re biting
- Tooth sensitivity
- Experiencing mild or even sharp pain when eating something sweet, extremely hot, or extremely cold
- Observable stains, holes, and pits in teeth are all symptoms of tooth decay.
Stages of Cavity Development
You don’t just suddenly get tooth decay overnight. Cavities form over a matter of weeks or even months because it happens in stages.
The first stage is the formation of a clear, sticky coating on your teeth called plaque. This is caused by sugars and starches sticking to your teeth because of what you’re eating and what you’re inadequately cleaning. The bacteria then feed on this residual food and form plaque that could either stay on your teeth or harden to form tartar, which is much harder to remove and allows even more bacteria to proliferate.
The second stage is when the acid produced by these bacteria removes essential minerals in the enamel, which is the tough outer layer of your teeth. This erosion causes white spot lesions or demineralization in the enamel, which is the beginning of a cavity.
With enough space to go through, the bacteria then move onto the dentin, which is the next layer of your teeth. The dentin is softer and less resistant to acid and is connected to your pain receptors which could cause tooth sensitivity.
Afterward, we go into the third stage where the bacteria make their way into the innermost material of your tooth: the pulp. The pulp is a bunch of nerves and blood vessels that will get swollen and irritated because of the bacteria. This causes pain inside the tooth or even on the jaw when the nerves swell enough to press against the inside of your teeth.
How to Prevent Cavities
Cavities, like any other medical occurrence, has numerous risk factors that need to be considered. These are the things you might want to avoid to be able to prevent getting cavities.
Be particular in cleaning
For obvious reasons, inadequate brushing is one of the risk factors of cavities. Without proper oral hygiene, cavities are bound to happen.
Teeth at the back of your mouth are more susceptible to cavities not just because they’re harder to reach, and therefore harder to clean, but also because of their structure. Molars have a large surface with a lot of crevices where food could get stuck in.
Consider the food you eat
Certain food and drink can stick to the surface of your teeth for longer than others. These include sugary food like cake, cookies, dried fruit, hard candy, honey, and soda, as well as dairy products like milk and butter. These stick to your teeth and can’t be fully-washed away by saliva.
For babies, bedtime feeding could put them at risk of cavities because their teeth would be coated with milk overnight.
Frequent snacking or drinking sugary drinks could also put someone at risk because this provides a regular and reliable supply of sugar for the bacteria to use in acid production.
Get more flouride
Not having enough fluoride also puts you at risk since fluoride prevents tooth damage by replacing the minerals lost during demineralization and can reverse even the earliest stages of cavities. A dry mouth or a small supply of saliva increases risk of cavities because food and bacteria doesn’t get washed away.
Manage GERD/ eating disorders
Heartburn or acid reflux brings acids to the teeth and this also damages the enamel just like the acid produced by the bacteria.
Eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia can cause cavities because purging brings stomach acid to the mouth and works similar to heartburn or acid reflux.
Undernutrition can also interfere with the production of saliva.
Good Habits for Good Oral Health
To be able to curb these risk factors, consider picking up good habits.
- Getting your fluoride in could be as easy as switching to fluoride toothpaste and brushing at least twice daily and ideally after every meal.
- Using interdental cleaners and flossing could also help you get in between your teeth and make sure it’s spotless.
- If you can’t brush as often as you’d like, consider rinsing your mouth with mouthwash and fluoridated water or just avoiding snacking when you can’t brush your teeth.
- Going to the dentist regularly can also nip cavities in the bud. Although you can’t really feel cavities until they’ve gotten worse, a dentist can easily do preemptive treatment. This includes thorough cleaning when you need it. Another example of preemptive treatment is a dental sealant or plastic coatings to protect your teeth. These seal off the grooves in your teeth that collect food to prevent plaque and acid buildup.
- When you can’t avoid snacking, consider snacks that are good for your teeth like fresh fruit, vegetables, or unsweetened beverages.
The treatments vary depending on how bad the cavity has gotten.
For mild cases, fluoride treatments, fluoridated toothpaste, and water should be enough. Moderate cases may require tooth fillings and sealants. For extreme cases, it’s possible that you’ll need a root canal and a tooth filling, or even a combination of all of these treatments.
In conclusion, the best way to prevent cavities is to ensure good oral hygiene and be diligent in your regular dentist visits. As long as your tooth care is adequate, cavities are easily reversible and easily preventable.
Learn more about Oral Health here.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.