One of the most common reasons to visit the dental office is to restore a tooth that is affected with a cavity. Also known as dental caries or tooth decay, cavities are holes that have been eaten in your teeth by the acidic waste products of bacteria that live in your mouth. Cavities weaken your teeth and can allow bacteria to enter the soft tissues on the inside of the tooth. If left untreated, cavities can eventually spread through your mouth and cause extensive tooth loss and infection.
The Cause of Cavities
Our mouths are full of bacteria. They live there naturally and help us digest our food. However, if they’re allowed to grow unchecked, the results can be disastrous for your mouth. Keeping your teeth and mouth clean is the best way to maintain the proper balance.
Other ways to prevent damage to your teeth include:
- Avoid sugar or sticky foods, since bacteria thrive on sugar
- Avoid acidic foods that can weaken tooth enamel
- Use a fluoride toothpaste, which can help remineralize very early decay
- Don’t bite down on hard objects that can crack or chip your teeth—cracks in the tooth can allow bacteria to enter the pulp
In their earliest stages, cavities are relatively easy to treat, requiring only very small fillings. However, they cause no symptoms at these early stages, so it’s important to visit the dentist regularly. X-rays and a professional exam can detect cavities when they are still small and easily treated.
Treatment of Cavities
Cavities are usually treated in a dental office with restorations such as fillings or dental crowns. Your dentist removes the decayed portion of the tooth and fills the hole with metal dental amalgam or with natural-looking materials such as porcelain or tooth-colored resins. If teeth are severely decayed, or if they experience new decay after they’ve already been filled, your dentist might recommend a crown.
Very severe cavities can introduce bacteria and infection into the tooth pulp. If the tooth’s interior has become infected due to severe decay, you might require a root canal procedure to preserve your tooth.
Do you fear you have a cavity? Come see us! Call our office today!