Tooth decay or cavities can happen to anyone but it is a particularly common problem for children and young adults. Left untreated, dental cavities can become infected and eventually, tooth decay can result in tooth loss. It is important to come in for regular dental examinations. If you notice an issue or any pain between visits, it is always recommended to come in. We can examine your teeth, gums, and mouth to ensure they are in a healthy condition. This can save you time, money, and stress in the long run.
Understanding Tooth Decay
Tooth decay begins with the normal bacteria in your mouth. These bacteria feed on food particles in your mouth and produce acid as a byproduct. The combination of bacteria, food debris, acid, and saliva in your mouth forms a filmy substance on your teeth, called plaque, roughly twenty minutes after you eat. If the plaque is not removed promptly, tooth decay will begin. Eventually, plaque hardens into a mineral-like substance called tartar, which is much harder to remove. Both tartar and plaque can eventually lead to gum diseases. In addition to gum disease, plaque build-up also affects the protective enamel surface on your teeth, leading to cavities. Initially, cavities are painless. However, without treatment, cavities can become larger and eventually compromise the sensitive nerves and delicate blood vessels within the tooth. If an abscess or other infection develops in the tooth it can result in the destruction, and ultimately the loss of, your tooth.
What Causes Tooth Decay
Starches and sugars are the kinds of foods most likely to cause tooth decay and cavities. Sticky foods also promote cavities because they adhere to the surface of your teeth and encourage bacterial activity. Additionally, if you snack a lot, you have a higher risk of developing cavities because plaque is formed more frequently. Although cavities are more common in younger people, adults are not immune. With age, gum disease occurs more frequently than tooth decay. Gum damage exposes the roots of the teeth to excess plaque, making them more vulnerable to cavities. Also, older fillings often deteriorate and allow bacteria to accumulate, resulting in more tooth decay.
Knowing When Cavities Need to be Filled
Most cavities are found when they are small, during regular dental checkups. Increased sensitivity when eating sweet, hot, or cold foods and drinks can also alert you to a possible cavity. If you notice tooth sensitivity or pain, it is time to visit us for an exam to find out if tooth decay is the culprit.
Preventing Tooth Decay
The best way to prevent tooth decay and the dental problems associated with tooth decay is to practice good oral hygiene. Brush and floss your teeth regularly and visit us twice a year for a dental cleaning and checkup. If you experience tooth sensitivity, make an appointment to see us and get it checked. The sooner a dental health problem like tooth decay is detected, the easier it is to treat.