In the United States, there are more than 3 million cavities diagnosed every year. Kids miss school most often because of cavities and 90% of adults have had a cavity at a point in their life according to Today.com. Your mouth is showing you signs you may have a cavity, so now you may be asking yourself, “what next?” This article will discuss with you what a cavity is, the warning signs you may have a cavity, the symptoms of a cavity, how your dentist will treat a cavity, cavity prevention, and risk factors leading to cavities.
What is a Cavity?
Permanently damaged areas on the hard surface of your teeth that develop into tiny holes and openings are considered cavities. If you see a tiny hole, like the one pictured, this is a sign you may have a cavity. Sometimes cavities are also referred to as caries or tooth decay and are caused by many factors including: frequent snacking, sugary drinks, bacteria in your mouth, and not cleaning your teeth properly.
Tooth decay and cavities are one of the world’s most common health concerns. Anyone who has teeth can get cavities but it is especially common for older adults, teenagers, and children to have them.
If a cavity goes untreated, they grow in size and affect deeper layers of your teeth. This can lead to toothaches, infection, and extraction of your tooth. It’s important to understand the signs you may have a cavity so you can prevent these issues from arising. Regular dental visits and good brushing and flossing habits are your best protection against cavities and tooth decay. If you get a cavity there are many ways your dentist can go about treating it.
Symptoms and signs you may have a cavity vary depending on their location and extent of damage. If a cavity is at its beginning phase, you may not experience any symptoms. However, as the decay gets worse, it may cause the following:
- Tooth sensitivity
- Visible pits or holes in your teeth
- Toothache or spontaneous pain
- Pain that occurs without any apparent cause
- Sharp or mild pain when drinking or eating something cold, hot, or sweet
- Pain when you are chewing or biting down
- White, black, or brown staining on the surface of your tooth
What Causes a Cavity?
Cavities occur over time and are caused by tooth decay. Part of understanding the warning signs that you may have a cavity is understanding what caused the cavity. This is how tooth decay is developed:
- Plaque is formed
- Dental plaque is a colorless or pale yellow sticky film that coats your teeth. It forms between your teeth and along your gum line when food, fluids, and saliva combine. Plaque can begin forming on your teeth 4-12 hours after you brush. This is why it is so important to thoroughly brush twice a day and floss. The longer that plaque stays on your teeth, the easier it can begin to harden into tartar under or above your gum line. The tartar creates a shield for bacteria and makes plaque more difficult to remove.
- Plaque Attacks
- Your tooth’s outer, hard enamel is removed by the acids in plaque causing tiny openings or holes in the enamel. This is considered the first stage of a cavity. Once the enamel is worn away, acid and bacteria will be able to reach the next layer of your teeth. This is called dentin – this layer is less resistant to acid and is softer than enamel. Dentin directly communicates with the nerve through tiny tubes causing tooth sensitivity.
- Continued Destruction
- As the tooth decay develops further, acid and bacteria continue their attack on your teeth. After going through the layers, the decay will move to the pulp. The pulp is your inner tooth material which contains nerves and blood vessels. If this happens, it can become irritated and swollen from the bacteria. The nerves become pressurized and cause pain since there is no place for the swelling to expand inside the tooth. This can cause further discomfort and can even extend to the outside of the tooth root to the bone.
When to See A Dentist
This is the tricky part, you may not be experiencing any of the symptoms of having a cavity and may not be aware that a cavity is forming. That is why dental checkups and cleanings are important to have on a regular basis, even when your teeth and mouth feel fine.
Nonetheless, you need to see your dentist as soon as possible if you begin experiencing mouth pain or a toothache.
Are you experiencing a dental emergency? Click here to learn more about what constitutes a dental emergency.
Filling Procedure for a Cavity
It really depends on how severe your cavity is. If your dentist discovers the cavity early, they can typically perform a filling procedure and discuss different filling types.
First, the dentist numbs the area around the tooth by administering a local anesthetic. This helps eliminate or reduce any pain. The dentist will use a dental appliance or a sort of guard to keep the tooth dry as well as isolate your tooth in prevention of contamination. Their goal is to first remove the area of the tooth which has decay with tools designed for how severe your cavity is. The tools they use also depend on the location of the cavity in your mouth. Dentists are trained in using a drill, laser, and air abrasion instruments to help remove decay from the tooth.
Furthermore, once your dentist removes the decay, they prepare your tooth for the filling process. This is done by cleaning it thoroughly to prevent bacteria and decay from causing problems in the future. The filling material is applied then cured or hardened typically using a special light. Lastly, your dentist will have you bite down to confirm the alignment is proper, followed by polishing it to make it as smooth as your other teeth.
Filling Types for Cavities
Different materials can be used by your dentist in filling your cavity. Here are the common filling types:
- This type of filling is created from a mix of acrylic resin and powdered glass. Since these types of fillings can be matched to your natural tooth color, they have increased in popularity. They make the filling inconspicuous in comparison to metal fillings like amalgam and gold.
- They are not as durable as a metal filling and can potentially chip. On the other hand, since this type of filling bonds to your teeth, it offers more support than some of the other fillings. Plus, they do not require the tooth to be worn down as much in the filling procedure.
- Ceramic or Porcelain
- The benefit of a porcelain filling is that they are also natural in appearance. However, they are typically more fragile and pricer than metal fillings. Most of the time they require multiple visits to the dentist since they are often made in a laboratory. After they are created, the dentist can place it on your tooth.
- Amalgam or Silver
- Amalgam fillings have been used for over a century. Their mixture consists of metals including: silver, zinc, tin, copper, and mercury. They are one of the less expensive options while also being long lasting and durable. The downside is that the metal color is dark and easily seen – so patients and dentists typically vouged for composite or tooth colored fillings instead.
- It is also important to note, there have been raised concerns in this type of filling since it contains mercury and its connection to disease. Public health organizations, including the ADA, have noted that there is a lack of proof causing harm to patients. There is only a very small amount of mercury present and since it is mixed in with additional metals, it has and still is safely used for millions of filling procedures in the dental industry.
- The strength of gold has long been recognized. This type of filling is typically more expensive but they usually last longer than other options.
- Other than cost, getting a gold filling comes with some other disadvantages including: visibility and galvanic shock. The potential of galvanic shock is rare but it is this phenomenon that causes a sharp pain temporarily with saliva interaction or when it is placed next to another silver filling.
- Resin or Glass Ionomer
- For areas that have little decay or are below the gumline typically use a resin or glass ionomer filling. These types of fillings are also typically used for children since their teeth are so small.
- Glass or resin ionomer fillings are rather delicate so they are not typically placed in areas exposed to pressure or chewing.
At your next dental check-up, if you are diagnosed with a cavity, remember there are multiple types of fillings you can consider. Without a doubt, you should speak with your dentist to determine which filling would be best for your procedure.
There are many signs you may have a cavity. Furthermore, did you know that cavity’s are completely preventable? Skipping brushing your teeth every now and then may not seem like it’s a big deal. Your teeth may not fall out anytime soon, but skipping your dental care habits increases your risk for disease…. Which eventually in time could lead to your teeth falling out. Okay, “falling out” may be a little harsh but just know that dental hygiene is serious. Neglecting your dental care leads to gum disease and tooth decay which are signs you have a cavity. You can prevent this by sticking to good dental care and visiting your dentist on a routine basis. Nonetheless, using these following tips can help prevent cavities while also keeping your teeth, mouth, and gums healthy for a lifetime.
- Regularly brush.
- You should brush your teeth for two minutes at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste. For improved care you can brush after every snack and meal. If you find yourself unable to brush, make an effort to rinse your mouth with water.
- Mouthwash ads protection against tooth decay. You should use a fluoride mouthwash twice a day after you brush.
- Routine dental visits.
- Every six months, it is recommended to see your dentist for an oral exam and teeth cleaning. If your mouth requires further attention or if you are prone to dental issues, then your dentist may recommend visits more frequently.
- Dental sealant consideration.
- Talk with your dentist about dental sealants. A sealant seals off areas in your teeth where food can be trapped easily. This helps prevent future dental issues and tooth decay. With good dental care, your sealants may last up to 10 years.
- Drink from the tap.
- Drinking water helps saliva production which helps rinse away bacteria that harms your teeth. It is also important to note that most cities’ public water supply contains fluoride which makes it an easy treatment to help prevent tooth decay. If you only drink bottled water, try mixing in tap water to help protect your teeth.
- Tooth-healthy nutrition.
- There are foods out there that actually help the health of your teeth. This concept is very similar to eating heart-healthy foods and their correlation with reducing risk of heart disease. According to the ADA (American Dental Association), foods containing calcium and phosphorus can help keep your tooth enamel healthy and strong. These foods include almonds, leafy greens, cheese, eggs, meat, and fish.
- Chat with your dentist.
- You can visit your dentist if you are unsure about the options available to help prevent tooth decay, bacteria, and disease. Your dentist will be able to make specific recommendations for your teeth and help you achieve the smile you’ve always wanted.
Risk Factors of Cavities
There are many warning signs you may have a cavity, as a result, you should also know the risk factors leading to a cavity? Listed below are multiple factors that can increase the risk of cavities including:
- Tooth location
- Most of the decay occurs near your back teeth including premolars and molars. There are a lot of grooves, nooks, and crannies that make it easy for them to collect food particles. They are more difficult to keep clean than your easy-to-reach front teeth.
- Foods and drinks
- There are some foods that tend to cling to your teeth for a long period of time. These foods include: honey, sugar, milk, soda, ice cream, cake, dried fruit, cookies, mints, hard candy, chips, and dry cereal. They tend to cause more decay than other foods because they are not easily washed away by saliva.
- Frequent sipping and snacking
- Snacking or sipping sugary drinks tend to fuel the production of acid which attacks your teeth and wears them down. As you steadily sip acidic drinks like soda, it will continue to create a bath of acid over your teeth.
- Infant feeding at bedtime
- At bedtime, when babies are given bottles filled with juice, formula, milk, or other sugary liquids, these beverages stay on their teeth while they are sleeping. This is often referred to as “baby bottle tooth decay.” Same sort of damage occurs in toddlers when they are given a sippy cup filled with these types of beverages. Apple juice is notorious for this.
- Not brushing or inadequate brushing
- Plaque forms quickly if you don’t clean your teeth. This causes the first stages of decay to start.
- Not enough fluoride
- Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral which helps prevent cavities. Using fluoride can sometimes reverse the earliest stages of decay and damage. It’s a common ingredient in mouth rinses, toothpaste, and is even added to many public water supplies. Bottled water does not typically contain fluoride.
- Older or younger age
- Cavities are extremely common in teenagers and young children in the United States. There is a higher risk in older adults as well. Teeth may wear down causing gums to recede over time, which in return makes teeth more vulnerable to decay. Older adults tend to take more medications that cause saliva reduction and increase the risk of tooth decay.
- Dry Mouth
- Lack of saliva causes dry mouth. Saliva is used to help prevent tooth decay by washing away plaque and food from your teeth. Substances in your saliva can also help counteract acid produced by bacteria. Sometimes individuals taking certain medications or have certain medical conditions can have increased risk of cavities because of the reduction of saliva production. Individuals who undergo head or neck radiation, or take certain chemotherapy drugs can also suffer from this.
- Worn out dental devices or fillings
- As time progresses, fillings can weaken. This causes them to break down or develop roughness around the edges. Plaque can build up easier in these areas making it harder to remove. Some dental devices will stop fitting properly which allows decay to develop under them.
- Acid reflux, heartburn, or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) causes stomach acid to go into your mouth causing the enamel of your teeth to wear away. The dentist may recommend you consult with your doctor to see if your acid reflux is the cause of enamel loss.
- Eating disorders
- Bulimia nervosa and anorexia may lead to cavities and tooth erosion. Since the stomach acid is repeatedly washing over your teeth from vomiting (purging), it begins to dissolve the enamel. Saliva production is also interfered by eating disorders.
If there are signs you may have a cavity, it is important to contact your dentist immediately to get it resolved! Contact us today at 407-282-2101 to make an appointment or visit the homepage of our website at www.eastorlandodental.com to request an appointment