What is a cavity?
A cavity is a widespread dental issue that affects a large number of people. It is referred to as tooth decay, and it occurs when the surface of the tooth is damaged by bacteria. The bacteria forms a sticky film on the teeth known as plaque, which contains harmful acids. When the plaque attacks the tooth enamel, it starts to break down the surface of the tooth and create a cavity.
What are the causes of cavities?
Below you’ll find some of the main factors which contribute to the creation of cavities:
- Poor oral hygiene: Brushing and flossing regularly is essential in removing plaque and food particles that can cause tooth decay.
- High sugar and carbohydrate consumption: Foods and drinks high in sugar and carbohydrates increase the production of plaque, which can lead to cavities.
- Dry mouth: Saliva is essential in neutralising harmful acids produced by plaque and washing away food particles. A dry mouth can increase the risk of cavities.
- Genetics: Some individuals may have a higher risk of tooth decay due to a genetic predisposition.
- Medical conditions: Certain medical conditions such as diabetes, GERD, and eating disorders can increase the risk of cavities.
- Tooth enamel loss: If the enamel is weakened or eroded, it increases the likelihood of developing a cavity.
- Poor dental care: Neglecting regular dental check-ups and cleanings can increase the risk of cavities.
- Age: Children and older adults are more susceptible to cavities due to changes in oral health and reduced saliva production.
Moreover, not brushing and flossing regularly can allow plaque, a sticky film of bacteria, to accumulate on our teeth. This plaque contains harmful acids that attack the enamel and lead to tooth decay.
That is the reason why fluoride is frequently added to toothpaste, as it strengthens the enamel of our teeth, making them more resistant to the damaging effects of acids.
How do I know if I have a cavity?
If you suspect that you have a cavity, it is important to schedule an appointment with your dentist as soon as possible. We have listed 7 signs and symptoms that can indicate the presence of a cavity:
- Toothache: A persistent or recurring toothache can be a sign of a cavity, especially if the pain is accompanied by sensitivity to hot or cold temperatures.
- Visible holes or pits in the teeth: If you can see visible holes or pits in your teeth, this may be a sign of a cavity.
- Dark or brown spots on the teeth: Dark or brown spots on the teeth can indicate that the enamel has been weakened by acid and is at risk of developing a cavity.
- Pain when biting or chewing: If you experience pain when biting or chewing, this can indicate that you have a cavity.
- Sensitivity to hot or cold temperatures: If you experience sharp, intense pain when consuming hot or cold foods and drinks, this can be a sign of a cavity.
- Bad breath or a sour taste in your mouth: The bacteria that cause cavities can also produce bad breath and a sour taste in your mouth.
- Swelling or tenderness in the gums near the affected tooth: If you have a cavity, the surrounding gums may become swollen and tender, indicating that the infection has spread.
How to Prevent Cavities
Cavities are a common dental issue that can cause discomfort and, if left untreated, lead to further problems. Fortunately, they can be prevented with good oral hygiene practices. Let’s go over some effective ways on how to prevent cavities and keep your teeth healthy.
Good Oral Hygiene
- Brush your teeth twice a day: Brushing your teeth twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste is one of the most effective ways to prevent cavities. Make sure to brush for two minutes and reach all surfaces of your teeth, including the fronts, backs, and tops.
- Floss daily: Flossing removes plaque and food particles from the areas between your teeth that brushing misses. Flossing once a day can help prevent cavities and maintain good oral health.
- Use mouthwash: Mouthwash kills bacteria and freshens your breath. Choose a mouthwash that contains fluoride for extra protection against cavities.
Dietary and Lifestyle Changes
- Limit sugary and acidic foods and drinks: Foods and drinks high in sugar and acid weaken the enamel of your teeth and increase your risk of developing cavities. Limit your intake of sugary and acidic foods and drinks and choose healthier alternatives such as fruits and vegetables.
- Chew sugar-free gum: Chewing sugar-free gum increases saliva production, which neutralises harmful acids in your mouth and helps prevent cavities.
- Drink plenty of water: Drinking water rinses away plaque and food particles from your teeth. Choose water instead of sugary drinks to help prevent cavities.
Regular Dental Check-Ups
Regular dental check-ups and cleanings prevent cavities and maintain good oral health. Your dentist can identify early signs of cavities and provide the appropriate treatment to prevent the cavity from becoming larger and causing further problems.
Cavities and Frequently Asked Questions
Can cavities be reversed?
Cavities can’t be reversed, but they can be treated and prevented from getting worse. Early treatment is important to prevent the cavity from causing further problems.
Can I get a cavity from sugary or acidic food or drink?
Yes, consuming sugary or acidic foods and drinks can increase your risk of developing a cavity. The sugar and acid in these foods and drinks weaken the enamel of your teeth and increase the risk of decay.
What should I do if I think I have a cavity?
If you think you have a cavity, you should visit your dentist as soon as possible. Your dentist will be able to diagnose the issue and provide the appropriate treatment to prevent the cavity from becoming larger and causing further problems.
Can cavities cause other dental problems?
Yes, if left untreated, cavities can lead to further dental problems, such as gum disease, tooth loss, and infections. Early treatment is important to prevent the cavity from causing further problems.
Cavities are a common dental issue that can cause discomfort and lead to further problems if left untreated. The main causes of cavities include poor oral hygiene, a diet high in sugar and acid, and a lack of fluoride. There are 7 common signs and symptoms of cavities, including toothache, visible holes or pits in the teeth, dark or brown spots on the teeth, pain when biting or chewing, sensitivity to hot or cold temperatures, bad breath or a sour taste in the mouth, and swelling or tenderness in the gums near the affected tooth.
To prevent cavities, it is important to practise good oral hygiene, limit sugary and acidic foods and drinks, and regularly see a dentist for check-ups and cleanings. If you suspect that you may have a cavity, at Spires Oral & Dermal Care in Magherafelt, we are committed to helping our patients maintain good oral health and prevent cavities from forming. Our experienced team of dental professionals is dedicated to providing the highest quality dental care and support, so you can keep your teeth healthy and strong.
Dr. Anne Gormley is a highly experienced dentist who has been practising for over 30 years after graduating from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne School of Dental Sciences in 1991. She is also a facial aesthetic clinician, having obtained the Level 7 PGCert in Non-surgical Facial Aesthetics in 2019 from Northumbria University. She received her MFGDP(UK) qualification in 1996 from the Royal College of Surgeons, completed an Open University module in Paediatric Dentistry from Bristol University and finished a one-year part-time course in implant surgery and prosthetics. Dr. Anne has worked in the Restorative Department of the Royal Victoria Hospital and the Orthodontic Department in the Waveney Hospital.
Dr. Anne specialises in cosmetic dentistry, with a particular interest in Align, Bleach, Bond (ABB). This technique involves straightening the teeth using Invisalign, followed by teeth whitening treatments and composite bonding and veneers. She loves enhancing facial features with non-surgical aesthetic treatments such as dermal fillers, botulinum toxins (also known as “Botox”) and Profhilo. In addition, Dr. Anne also specialises in crown, bridgework and ceramic veneers.