Cavities are one of the most common dental problems, affecting both children and adults. They are tiny holes or openings on the surface of teeth, which are usually caused by a build-up of plaque and bacteria. Without proper dental care, cavities can cause pain, discomfort and even tooth loss. But how do you identify cavities before they cause damage to your teeth?
In this article, we will discuss how to spot the signs of cavities and what you can do to prevent them.
The Formation of Cavities
Cavities develop when plaque, a sticky film of bacteria, builds up on your teeth’s surface. The bacteria in plaque are an acidic type, and they produce acid when they consume sugar or carbohydrates. The acid, combined with saliva, creates plaque, which then sticks to the teeth’s surface.
The acid in plaque erodes the teeth’s outer layer (enamel), and over time, it creates tiny holes or openings in the teeth’s surface. These holes or openings create cavities.
How Do Cavities Look Like?
Cavities can be challenging to identify at first because they do not always cause pain. However, with regular dental checkups, your dentist can spot them early and prevent further damage.
Early Signs of Cavities
The early signs of cavities are tiny white spots on the teeth’s surface. These spots indicate that the enamel is starting to erode. If you start seeing white spots on your teeth, it’s best to book an appointment with your dentist right away.
Advanced Signs of Cavities
If left untreated, the cavities can develop into dark, visible spots or holes on the teeth’s surface. The cavities may also cause toothache, sensitivity when consuming hot or cold liquids, or a visible pit in the tooth.
Preventing cavities starts with maintaining good oral hygiene. Here are some tips to help you prevent cavities:
- Brush your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste.
- Floss once a day to remove food particles and plaque between teeth.
- Limit sugary and acidic foods and drinks, which can contribute to bacteria growth.
- Use a mouth rinse containing fluoride to prevent cavities and freshen breath.
- Chew sugarless gum, which increases saliva flow, washing away bacteria and reducing acid levels in your mouth.
- Visit your dentist regularly for checkups and professional cleaning to remove plaque build-up.
If your dentist identifies a cavity, they will recommend treatment to prevent the cavity from getting worse. The treatment options depend on the cavity’s size and severity, and they include:
- Dental fillings – where the dentist removes the decayed part of the tooth and fills it with a durable material like composite resin or amalgam.
- Crowns – for more significant cavities where the tooth’s structure is severely damaged, a crown can protect the tooth from further damage.
- Root canal treatment – if the cavity has reached the tooth’s pulp (nerve), a root canal procedure is necessary to remove the damaged pulp and save the tooth from further decay.
- Extraction – if the cavity is too severe and cannot be treated, the tooth may need to be extracted to prevent further decay and infection.
Cavities can cause significant damage to your teeth if left untreated, but with good oral hygiene and regular dental checkups, you can prevent them. If you suspect you have a cavity or experience any toothache, sensitivity or visible holes on your teeth, visit your dentist right away for early diagnosis and treatment.
- Q: Can cavities heal on their own?
- A: No, once a cavity starts, it cannot heal on its own. It needs professional dental treatment to prevent further decay.
- Q: Is it possible to have a cavity and not feel any pain?
- A: Yes, in the early stages, cavities may not cause pain or discomfort. Regular dental checkups can help identify cavities early.
- Q: What foods should I limit to prevent cavities?
- A: Sugary and acidic foods and drinks can contribute to bacteria growth, leading to cavities. Limit your intake of sugary drinks, cakes, and candy.
- “Cavities/Tooth Decay,” American Dental Association, last accessed on May 12, 2021. https://www.ada.org/~/media/ADA/Publications/Files/ADA_PatientSmart_Cavities.ashx
- “How to Identify and Treat Cavities,” Colgate, accessed on May 12, 2021. https://www.colgate.com/en-us/oral-health/conditions/cavities/how-to-identify-and-treat-cavities
- “Cavities (Tooth Decay),” Mayo Clinic, accessed on May 12, 2021. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/cavities/symptoms-causes/syc-20352892