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Frequently Asked Questions About Cavities

Written by Valley Oak Dental Group on . Posted in Dental Tips

Cavities are one of the many dental problems that people can experience throughout the course of their lifetime. Knowing what a cavity is, how to tell when you have a cavity, and what you can do if you get a cavity can help you take care of your teeth. Here’s what you need to know. 

What Is a Cavity?

A cavity is a hole in tooth enamel caused by decay. The enamel is the hard outer shell of the tooth. Cavities occur when foods that contain carbohydrates build up on the tooth enamel. Carbohydrates break down into sugars, which are then eaten by bacteria. Bacteria break the sugars down into acids. This is what causes the teeth to soften and decay. 

As the tooth begins to decay, a hole appears in the enamel. At first, the hole is small and shallow, but if the decay is allowed to go on untreated, this is when a cavity may form. Cavities penetrate into the vulnerable, inner parts of the tooth, known as the dentin and the pulp. 

These parts of the tooth break down much more easily than the enamel. The inner parts of the tooth contain blood vessels and nerves, so when they are damaged this can be painful.

What Are the Signs of Cavities?

The most obvious sign that you have a cavity is a visible hole in your tooth. However, these holes are not always easy to see. Some of the other signs of a cavity include pain, sensitivity to cold and heat, and dark stains on the tooth.

Some of these symptoms can be a sign of other dental problems, so if you’re experiencing one or more of these signs, see a dentist. Your dentist can help you determine the exact cause of the symptoms and what you can do to alleviate them.  

Who Is Most at Risk to Get Cavities?

Children are at high risk for cavities because they don’t always brush their teeth very well. They also tend to eat a lot of sweet things.

Children aren’t the only at risk group, however. There are many factors that come into play when determining who is at risk for getting cavities. Genetics are believed to play a big role when it comes to who is most likely to get a cavity. 

Genetics affects factors like the hardness of your tooth enamel, the effectiveness of your saliva, and whether or not you have a strong desire to eat sweet foods. If your tooth enamel is soft, you like to eat sweet foods, and your saliva doesn’t break down food the way it’s supposed to, then you may be at higher risk for cavities. 

What Should You Do if You Have a Cavity?

If you have a cavity, your dentist will help you decide what to do next. Some cavities can be treated with fillings. A filling is a plug for the hole in your teeth. If your cavity is very severe, your dentist may recommend a crown. This is a cover for your tooth enamel.

Either way, you’ll need to work with your dentist to ensure that you get the proper treatment for your cavity. If you don’t get proper treatment, you could develop an infection, lose the tooth, or develop even more severe dental problems. 

How Can You Avoid or Prevent Cavities?

Sugary foods can play a big role in whether or not you get cavities, so cut back on sweets whenever possible. Frequent snacking throughout the day can also cause cavities because your teeth are more frequently exposed to foods that break down into sugars and acids. 

Brush your teeth after eating to remove plaque and bacteria from your mouth. See your dentist as often as the dentist recommends. If you develop a pain in your mouth, see the dentist as soon as possible. 

Use fluoride toothpaste. If your water isn’t fluoridated at home, ask your dentist or doctor about fluoride supplements. Floss at least once per day to remove foods from between your teeth, and use mouthwash after brushing at least once per day. 

Finally, purchase a dental mirror and start inspecting your teeth on a monthly basis. You may actually see a hole forming in your teeth, which could help you catch the problem in its early stages.

Even if you don’t see a hole, you’ll still be able to see the areas on your teeth where plaque has built up. This will help you determine where you need to brush your teeth and can help you keep your mouth cleaner. 

Work with Your Dentist

If you have more questions about dental hygiene and best practices for tooth care, contact your dentist. Your dentist can answer your questions and help you take better care of your teeth. For more information about cavities, contact Valley Oak Dental Group.