Damage caused to the tooth, leading to a decayed tooth is what causes cavities. Tooth cavities and decay are one of the most common health problems people face across the world. They are common amongst children and adults, but in some cases, even infants can develop cavities.
What is Tooth Cavity?
Cavities are areas that are permanently damaged on the hard surface of our teeth that develop into tiny holes or openings.
Every person has bacteria in their mouth. After drinking or consuming foods having sugar, bacteria in the mouth turn sugar into acid. Plaque begins to form on your teeth soon after drinking or eating anything sugary. That is why, regular brushing of teeth is important.
Plaque sticks on the teeth, and the acid in plaque can erode your tooth enamel slowly. Enamel, a hard, protective coating on the teeth, protects your tooth against decay. As the tooth enamel weakens, the risk for cavity formation and decay increases
Cavities are caused by several factors such as drinking sugary drinks, eating too much chocolate, mouth bacteria, and not brushing your teeth well. If left untreated, a decayed tooth can cause many problems. It can lead to tooth loss, severe infection, or toothache.
To avoid the development of cavities and tooth decay, you must brush your teeth properly twice a day and regularly visit the dental clinic for check up and cleaning.
Symptoms of Tooth Cavities
Depending on the severity and the location of the cavity, the symptoms and signs vary. In the initial stages, you may not notice any symptoms. But, as cavities get larger, you may start to notice some symptoms such as:
● Painful teeth.
● Tiny holes or openings in the teeth
● Coloured staining on the teeth
● Sensitive teeth.
● Sharp pain from consuming something cold or hot
● Spontaneous pain without any cause
If you notice any of these symptoms, immediately visit your nearest hospital for a dental checkup.
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Complications due to Tooth Cavities
If left untreated, cavities can have severe complications even in infants and toddlers who do not have permanent teeth.
Some of the complications of cavities include:
● Pus or swelling around the tooth.
● Broken teeth.
● Problems with chewing food.
● Tooth abscess.
Severe complications include:
● Weight loss due to trouble eating food.
● Tooth loss affecting physical appearance.
● Tooth abscess causing life-threatening infections.
Everyone is at risk of developing cavities. But the factors that can increase risk are:
● Food items and drinks
Food items that remain stuck in your teeth even after a long time of their consumption can cause cavities. These include cake, cookies, sugar, ice cream, milk, hard candy, and chips.
● Location of the tooth
Cavities usually occur in the back teeth – molars and premolars. These teeth have groves, pits, and ridges that may collect food particles, leading to decay of teeth and these teeth may also be harder to reach while brushing .
● Frequent eating and drinking
The bacteria in the mouth get more fuel for the production of acid to attack your teeth when you consume food and drinks frequently. Regularly drinking acidic drinks such as soda, create acid continuously over your teeth, leading to cavities.
● Old dental devices or fillings
Over time, dental fillings break down and develop rough edges which allow plaque to develop easily. It also gets harder to remove. When dental devices get old, they may not fit well, and decay starts to develop below them.
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Treatment of Tooth Cavities
Regular visits to a dentist can help identify cavities and other dental problems before they get worse. The sooner you get it diagnosed, the better are your chances of slowing down the progression of cavities.
The treatment depends on the severity of the cavity. The options for treatment include:
● Fluoride Treatment
If your cavity is in the early stages, the doctor may use this course of treatment. It helps restore the tooth’s affected enamel and reverse the cavity. These treatments contain higher amount of fluoride in them, compared to the amount in toothpaste and mouth rinses.
The treatment may be of gel, liquid, foam, or varnish, that is brushed on your teeth to reverse cavities.
Fillings or restorations are the common approaches to treat cavities when it progresses beyond the mild stages. These are made of different materials such as dental amalgam or porcelain.
● Root canals
When the cavity progresses and reaches the inner layers of teeth, the pulp, you may need a root canal treatment . Instead of removing the damaged teeth, this treatment repairs it. To minimise the chances of infection, medications are used . The decayed pulp is then replaced with a filling.
● Tooth extraction
In severe cases where the decay has completely destroyed the tooth, the doctors perform a tooth extraction.
Precautions to Avoid Tooth Cavities
To avoid cavities and pain in the tooth, maintain good oral and dental hygiene. Visit a dentist regularly for dental checkups.
Here are some precautions that you can take:
● Use a fluoride toothpaste
Brush your teeth with a toothpaste that has a high amount of fluoride in it. Floss or an interdental cleaner could be used to clean between teeth.
● Use a fluoride mouthwash
Rinse your mouth regularly with a fluoride mouthwash.
● Consume tooth-friendly food
Avoid eating food that can get stuck in your teeth for a long time. Eat food items that are good for your oral hygiene.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
1. Can a cavity go away on its own?
A cavity cannot go away on its own. Once the damage is done to the tooth enamel, it keeps spreading. If it gets severe, it may lead to an infection.
2. What is the fastest way to get rid of a cavity?
Using fluoride toothpaste and mouthwash can help get rid of a cavity. You should also avoid certain food items and beverages that can accelerate the progression of cavities.
3. Can I fill a cavity at home?
To treat a cavity the right way, a proper diagnosis is required. Only dentists can diagnose your cavities and prescribe a treatment to get rid of it. You can take precautions at home to avoid cavities, like brushing your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and using mouthwash and floss.