- Published Date: 02 Apr 2021
- Updated Date: 02 Apr 2021
- Reading Time: 4 min
“Cavities” itself is a scary word – it seems like your worst nightmare has come to life when your dentist discovers a cavity. This irreversible tooth decay is one of the most common ailments in children and has affected almost 78% of Australians over the age of 20.
Cavities are a form of tooth decay that eventually creates a hole in the tooth. They are created when leftover food particles react with bacteria in the oral cavity to create an acid, which gradually attacks and dissolves tooth enamel. Cavities are common because it’s easy for food particles to get stuck in the mouth’s many hard-to-reach places, allowing the slow decay to go unnoticed.
Cavities can’t be treated by yourself and are best avoided with thorough prevention, so it’s important to learn about dental health and develop a healthy dental routine.
Actively fight against tooth decay with these facts about cavities:
1. 700 Species of Bacteria
The mouth has the second most microbial-rich environment in the body. Through all scientific studies up till today, we know that there are 700 species of bacteria that seek to colonize our teeth. These bacteria are specifically drawn to merge with our own saliva, along with bits of food to create an acid that attacks the surface of our teeth. They also attack soft tissue, such as the vulnerable sidewalls of our gums. If food is left in between your teeth, any one or more of these bacteria can find their way to the area. They will start a reaction that creates an acid that bores into your teeth, creating irreversible cavities.
2. It’s Not Sugar’s Fault
Despite popular belief, sugar is not the main cause of cavities, though it definitely assists in the growth of bacteria and production of acid. Consuming any starchy food – including cookies, cake, chips, bread, crackers, pasta, soda, fruit juice, and citrus fruit – can eventually lead to cavities. These foods are full of refined carbohydrates, white flour, or sugar that easily sticks to the surface of your teeth, initiating the production of acid. Basic dental care will prevent this, so all you need to do is stick to brushing twice a day and flossing once at lunch if you can.
3. Cavities Aren’t Just For Kids
Oral health is so important for all age groups and just because you’re not in the more vulnerable children’s bracket, doesn’t mean you’re out of the firing line. Cavities affect adults just as much as kids. They usually form because of our lifestyle as our teeth are generally quite strong. So limit your sugar intake in coffee or tea. Try to limit acidic drinks like fruit smoothies. Adults who get cavities are usually not brushing properly and ideally before sleeping. So, set an alarm for when you have to brush your teeth, and stick to it. Even if you’re at home doing some extra work on a report, or at the office staying late, take a toothbrush and toothpaste with you to work!
4. Once it Starts, It Won’t Stop
Perhaps the scariest characteristic of cavities is their irreversibility. When a cavity forms on your tooth, it will first start to decay the enamel, then create a hole in the tooth, which continues to grow as bacteria hides in the hole and is impossible to brush out. Once the decay is present, its damage is permanent and is only fixable with a dentist’s visit. Your dentist can reverse the damage by excavating infection and using a filling to seal the hole in your tooth.
How do you stop cavities? Prevention is the best strategy for keeping cavities at bay. Using toothpaste and drinking water containing fluoride is an effective way to prevent decay. But the most effective strategy is regular brushing and flossing to get rid of any food particles left in the mouth.
Flossing may seem unimportant, but it allows you to reach hidden spaces a toothbrush can’t reach. Those tight, hidden spaces account for 40 percent of your teeth’s surface area, giving food particles and bacteria plenty of places to hide.
6. Colorful Cavities
As cavities start to form, the decay will cause the infected area to turn a different color. Early signs of cavities appear as white spots on the enamel and will gradually turn dark brown, passing through various shades of light brown as the decay progresses. If left unchecked, the cavity will eventually create a hole in the tooth. When a cavity has particularly left its mark, the area can look grey or even black. It’s noticeable when laughing and eating, so it’s something you want to avoid for a more aesthetically pleasing mouth.
7. Commonly Undetected
It is difficult to detect a cavity on your own as you can’t always feel early decay. The best way to prevent this irreversible damage is routinely visiting your dentist who will catch the cavity at the early stages of the decay. You may not be able to feel it with your tongue, but you may be able to feel it when eating. If you sense a mild to sharp pain in a specific tooth when biting down, this could be an early sign of cavity forming. The nerve might be inflamed by the acid that is boring a hole down to it. If you are sensitive to hot and or cold foods all of a sudden, that could be another sign.
8. Worsening the Decay
Delaying trips to the dentist’s office may allow new decay to create even more damage as cavities are difficult to detect on your own. As a cavity continues to grow, it can eventually lead to a painful jawbone infection or dental abscess. Early signs of jawbone infection include pain, sensitivity, bad taste in the mouth, fever, difficulty opening the mouth, difficulty swallowing, gum inflammation, or pus drainage.