As you sit at the table ready to dig into a delicious meal, you feel a sharp pain shooting through your teeth — somewhere in the back of your mouth. You hold your mouth, wondering why your teeth feel so sensitive. A trip to your dentist reveals the formation of a cavity in your tooth.
Cavities are no picnic, and they can make it difficult for you to enjoy some of your favourite foods. Although cavities are very common, they should be taken seriously, and they can and should be prevented.
How do cavities form?
If you’re fond of late-night snacking, sugary juices instead of water, and routinely skip your nightly brushing and flossing routine, your mouth can become host to a wide array of harmful bacteria that feed on the sugars and starches you provide. Over time, these bacteria form plaque, which hardens to form tartar; tartar shields the bacteria by providing a protective environment for them.
The bacteria continue to cause tooth decay by causing small holes to form on the hard surface of your teeth, and this slow decay of the tooth is what causes cavities to form. Cavities can be very painful and can cause severe toothaches, and may become infectious. In some cases, cavities can result in loss of teeth. If cavities aren’t detected early and remain untreated, they can become more severe and continue to decay deeper layers within your teeth.
How do I know if I have a cavity?
There are a number of signs and symptoms associated with cavities. Interestingly enough, you may not experience any symptoms if the cavity is in its early stages of development. The symptoms usually begin to kick in as the tooth decay becomes larger and more severe. Symptoms of a cavity can include any or all of the following:
- Toothache or pain when biting
- Sensitivity in your teeth
- Holes in your teeth which are visible
- Pain in your teeth when eating or drinking, hot, cold or sweet items
- Staining on the surface of your teeth
Who is at risk for developing cavities?
The only thing you need to get a cavity is a tooth, so as long as you have teeth, they are at risk of developing a cavity. However, there are some factors which can increase your risk of developing a cavity, including:
- Food and drinks
Certain foods and drinks which stick to teeth and are difficult to wash away are likely to contribute to tooth decay. If you do enjoy snacking on sugary foods, try to limit your intake and clean your mouth properly after each snacking.
- Tooth location
Teeth that have more grooves and pits —such as molars— provide good hiding places for food. If these teeth aren’t properly cleaned, they can become breeding grounds for bacteria and subsequent decay.
- Not enough fluoride
Fluoride helps prevent tooth decay by slowing down the breakdown of enamel. Fluoride can be found in most toothpaste, so proper cleaning of your teeth can help prevent and even reverse the early stages of tooth decay.
- Not enough brushing
It goes without saying that if you don’t properly clean your mouth after meals, you will quickly begin to see the formation of plaque on your teeth.
- Dry mouth
Similar to rinsing your mouth, saliva also helps to wash away food particles from your mouth and can also help wash away plaque. If you produce less than a normal amount of saliva, food and plaque will remain on your teeth and begin to decay them.
- Heartburn and acid reflux
When acid from your stomach flows into your mouth, it wears away the protective coating on your teeth, leaving them more susceptible to tooth decay and damage. Eating disorders — such as bulimia or anorexia — can also have a similar effect on your teeth. The stomach acid can reach your mouth after repeated vomiting, leaving your teeth stripped of their protective coat.
An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure
It is always important to maintain good oral hygiene. Brushing and flossing daily and avoiding sugary foods and drinks are all great ways to keep your mouth clean and your teeth strong and healthy. It would be best if you aimed to brush your teeth at least twice a day using toothpaste that contains fluoride.
In addition to a good teeth-cleaning routine, visiting your dentist regularly can help you detect any problems at an early stage, and the appropriate treatment or steps can be taken to make sure the problem doesn’t get any worse. It is not always possible to detect a cavity right away since there may not be any symptoms, so it’s important to visit your dentist regularly for a check-up.
Although your oral hygiene may be great, it’s a good idea to get your teeth professionally cleaned. If your dentist feels that it is necessary, they may also suggest sealants which will provide a covering over the grooves in your teeth to avoid particle buildup, or they may recommend fluoride treatment to help protect your tooth enamel or an antibacterial treatment to help manage excessive bacterial growth in your mouth.
Everything that you put into your mouth can affect your teeth. Frequent snacking and sipping of sugary drinks don’t allow your mouth to remain clean and serves as a great fuel for the bacteria in your mouth. Try to replace any sugary drinks with tap water instead and eat foods that don’t have a tendency to get stuck in the grooves of your teeth.
Some foods, such as fruits and vegetables, increase the flow of saliva in your mouth, which can help clean out any food particles that may have gotten trapped. Not only will these changes in your diet benefit the health of your teeth, but they are positive changes that can help improve your overall health.
Don’t let tooth decay jeopardize your bright shining smile and keep you from enjoying the foods you love. Watching your sugar intake and maintaining good oral hygiene practices can keep your teeth safe from cavities.
Damage to our teeth can go undetected, so it’s always important to schedule regular checkups and professional teeth cleanings with your dentist. Cavity formation can be prevented and you can take the first steps to make sure it is.
As they say, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Don’t let tooth decay go unnoticed and cause you pain. Regular dental checkups can help maintain good oral health and help spot any signs of cavity formation before it’s too late.
To learn more about cavities and how to prevent them, call Oakville Place Dental at call 647-496-2721 or contact us here.