The stress of good oral hygiene is so important to dentists. Keeping on topic of the last blog, let’s discuss another issue you can run into if you do not take proper care of your teeth.

The bacteria from the plaque that exists on your teeth produce an acid that eventually causes the teeth to gradually begin to erode. This process is otherwise known as tooth decay. Tooth decay is mostly directly related to our lifestyle. It is a result of what we eat, how well we take care of our teeth, and the presence of fluoride in our water and toothpaste. If you do not take proper care of your teeth, your tooth decay may cause a hole in your teeth to form. That hole is what is known as a cavity.

Cavities develop below the tooth’s surface, where you can’t see them. When you eat foods that contain sugars and starches, the bacteria in plaque feed off of these carbohydrates, producing acids that eat away at the tooth. Over time, the tooth enamel begins to break down beneath the surface while the surface remains intact. When enough of the enamel below the surface of the tooth is eaten away, the surface collapses, and a cavity is formed.

There are no symptoms of a cavity until the tooth has decayed to the point of infection. At this point, you will begin to experience the pain we refer to as a toothache. The pain can be mild to excruciating and could come and go. If a cavity goes untreated, it can destroy your tooth and kill the delicate nerves at its center. This may cause an abscess to form, an area of infection at the root tip. Once an abscess forms, it can only be treated with a root canal, surgery or by extracting the tooth. This is the most extreme instance of a cavity. In fact, there are three types of cavities:

  • Coronal cavities— These are the most common type of cavities that occur in both children and adults, located on chewing surfaces or between the teeth.
  • Root cavities— These cavities usually are the result of receding gums. When there are no gums covering tooth roots, these exposed areas easily decay.
  • Recurrent decay— This decay can form around existing fillings and crowns. Since these areas may have a tendency to accumulate plaque, this can ultimately lead to decay.
  • While preventing tooth cavities is ideal, don’t worry too much if you do get diagnosed with tooth cavities, as everyone (including your dentist) is bound to get a cavity or two in their lifetime. The key to treating them is to find them early and treat them quickly. Even though it’s best to avoid getting them altogether, the treatment options for cavities are relatively simple. The most basic form of treatment for a cavity is a filling, which is when your dentist drilled away drills away the affected part of the tooth and is replaced with a strong filling made of either composite resins, porcelain, silver, gold, or amalgam. If your cavity is more serious, a root canal or crown may be necessary.

    If you are experiencing any signs of tooth decay or cavities, it is best to see your dental professional as soon as possible.