Brushing and flossing regularly is essential for good dental health, but even with the best oral hygiene habits, cavities can still form. Currently, 1 in 4 adults aged 20 to 64 has at least one untreated cavity.
With the various types of cavities and the several risk factors that cause them to form, it’s likely that at some point in your life, you will experience a dental cavity.
What are the Types of Cavities?
Tooth decay, or cavities, can form on any surface of the teeth. However, there are three main types of cavities:
Pit and Fissure Cavities
This type of cavity is found on the chewing surfaces of the molars and premolars. Your molars and premolars have high points and ridges that make them suitable for grinding and chewing food. Unfortunately, these areas are also difficult to clean, making plaque and bacteria buildup more likely.
If you are experiencing a pit and fissure cavity, your dentist may use a sealant to help protect the surface of your teeth. These sealants provide a barrier that makes it hard for food particles and bacteria to accumulate.
As the name suggests, this type of cavity forms on the smooth surface of your teeth. This may include the front, back, or sides of your teeth. Smooth-surface decay is the least common type of cavity and typically develops the slowest.
Fluoride may help prevent this type of cavity by strengthening your tooth enamel and remineralizing any early decay.
Root cavities may develop quicker than other types of decay, thus making early detection essential. This type of cavity forms on the root surfaces of your teeth and is often caused by a buildup of plaque and bacteria around the gum line.
If you are experiencing a root cavity, your dentist may recommend a deep cleaning to remove the plaque and bacteria from around the gums. If left untreated, root decay may spread to the tissues surrounding the tooth, known as the pulp. If this occurs, you may need to get a root canal.
How To Tell if You Have a Cavity
Cavities can be difficult to detect, especially in the early stages. However, the following telltale signs may indicate you have a cavity:
- Bleeding gums
- Toothache or mouth pain
- Sensitivity to hot or cold food or drinks
- Swollen gums
- Bad breath
Risk Factors for Dental Cavities
Having good oral hygiene habits is the best way to prevent cavities, but some risk factors may increase your chances of developing them. Some common risk factors include:
How Dental Cavities Form
Cavities occur when the bacteria in your mouth produce acids that eat away at your tooth enamel. This process, known as demineralization, can weaken and damage your teeth over time, causing holes and tooth decay.
Dental plaque is the main culprit behind cavities. Plaque forms when the sugars and starches we eat are not adequately cleaned from our teeth. This sticky film of bacteria builds up on the teeth and causes acid to form.
The acid created by plaque bacteria eats away at the tooth enamel, eventually leading to cavities. In addition, as acid and bacteria damage the enamel, the tooth may begin to darken in color.
Once your enamel breaks down, the dentin layer of your tooth becomes exposed. Dentin is a softer tooth layer that is susceptible to decay. Your dentin directly communicates with the nerves in your pulp, the innermost layer of your tooth. If the decay reaches your pulp, you may experience pain and tooth sensitivity.
Ways to Prevent Cavities From Forming
While brushing, flossing, and regularly visiting the dentist are the best ways to prevent cavities, there are other things you can do to help reduce your risk. Some tips include:
Using mouthwash may help reduce plaque and bacteria levels in your mouth. Look for a mouthwash that contains fluoride to help strengthen your tooth enamel. After brushing your teeth, rinse with water and then use mouthwash.
Instead of sugary drinks, try drinking water. Not only is water good for your overall health, but it also helps rinse away food particles and bacteria from your teeth. Try to drink water that contains fluoride, especially if you are at a higher risk for cavities.
Refrain From Frequent Snacking
If you are constantly snacking, you are more likely to have a plaque buildup on your teeth. Try to space out your meals and snacks throughout the day and avoid eating sugary foods between meals.
If you do choose to snack, brushing after eating is essential. Choose snacks that are low in sugar and avoid sticky foods like candy.
Going to a comprehensive dental practice like ChildSmiles•FamilySmiles may help reduce your risk for cavities. ChildSmiles•FamilySmiles offers a variety of services to help prevent cavities and treat tooth decay.
If you are experiencing any symptoms of tooth decay or are due for your next dental check-up, contact us today to schedule an appointment.