Cavities – What are they?

Cavities is another word for tooth decay. Tooth decay is directly related to our lifestyles, which is good news because it means we can control factors that affect our teeth. There are a few factors which directly affect our teeth, they are:

  • What we eat
  • How well we care for our teeth
  • Fluoride in our water, and in our toothpaste
  • Hereditary factors – these affect how susceptible your teeth are to decay.

We tend to think of cavities as something that happens to our children but adults can and often do get cavities. There are different types of cavities that affect us.
Coronal cavities are the most common type of cavity that occurs in children and adults. These coronal cavities are usually found on the chewing surfaces of the teeth, or sometimes in-between the teeth.
Root cavities are more common as we age, since that’s when our gums recede and leave some of the tooth exposed. Sadly, the exposed areas easily decay.
There is also recurrent decay. This is often found around existing bridges, fillings and crowns. Because these areas are susceptible to plaque, and plaque leads to decay.

Dry Mouth

Dry mouth is often the reason adults suffer cavities. Dry mouth is caused by lack of saliva. It might be due to medication or illness, or for specialised treatments like radiation therapy and chemotherapy. Dry mouth can be temporary or permanent, depending on why it occurs in the first place.

Cavities can cause some serious problems, more so if they are left untreated. Cavities which are just left will destroy the tooth and then kill the nerves at its centre. Then this can develop into abscesses which are painful infections at the tip of the root. Abscess are treated with root canal surgery or by extracting the tooth.

How Can I Tell If I have a Cavity?

You are unlikely to be able to tell if you have a cavity or not. Only a dentist can tell you for sure. Sometimes cavities develop underneath the tooth’s surface, so you wouldn’t be able to see them there. Carbohydrates and sugars that you eat are then eaten by the bacteria in plaque and then these produce acids. Acids then eat into the tooth. The tooth enamel breaks down underneath the surface of the tooth. Eventually the sub-surface enamel is eaten away then the surface collapses. That’s how the cavity is formed.
Cavities like places that are snuggled away such as in the pits of the tooth, in between the teeth or on the gum line. You can keep an eye on cavities by simply having regular check-up’s and looking after your oral hygiene.

How Can I Help Prevent Cavities?

You can prevent yourself and your family from getting cavities by:

  1. Brushing morning and night at least.
  2. Floss to remove plaque – it is more common between teeth
  3. Regular check-ups are essential – they prevent little problems becoming bigger
  4. Eating a balanced diet.
  5. Limit sugary or high carbohydrate foods
  6. Eat sugary foods with a meal – reduces the amount of times your teeth are exposed to acid
  7. Use dental products with fluoride
  8. Make sure there is fluoride in the water source or use supplements.

Eating

If you follow these guidelines you will limit the damage done by starchy foods and sugary foods. These are the ones that are most damaging to you and your children’s teeth. Using a good quality toothbrush is also important. Electric toothbrushes are more efficient at ridding your mouth of plaque. Using a good quality electric toothbrush and a good fluoride toothpaste you will be doing the best you can for you and your family’s teeth.

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