“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.
Table of contents
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:
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 700 species of bacteria seek to colonize our teeth. These bacteria are specifically drawn to merge with our 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.
It’s Not Sugar’s Fault
Despite popular belief, sugar is not the main cause of cavities, though it assists in the growth of bacteria and the 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.
Cavities Aren’t Just For Kids
Even if you aren't in the younger, more at-risk demographic, you should still take care of your teeth and gums since your oral health is crucial. Adults are not immune to getting cavities like children are. As humans, we tend to develop them due to our lifestyle choices, as our teeth are naturally pretty sturdy. You should cut back on the amount of sugar you put in your tea and coffee. Fruit smoothies and similar acidic drinks should be consumed with caution. Most adults who suffer from cavities don't wash their teeth before bed. So, schedule a reminder to clean your teeth at a specific time and actually do it. Take a toothbrush and toothpaste with you no matter where you are working, whether it's at home finishing up a report or at the office past closing
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 the 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.
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.
Seeing as how early deterioration is often imperceptible to the human touch, it is not easy to spot a cavity on your own. Regular trips to the dentist will help you avoid this problem by catching the cavity in its earliest stages, when it is still treatable. Not anything you'd feel on your tongue, but perhaps in your stomach. A cavity may be developing if biting down causes mild to severe pain in a specific tooth. There's a chance that the nerve will become irritated as the acid works its way to it. Suddenly developing a low tolerance for heat or cold is another red flag.
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.
How can I check for cavities at home?
Using a small handheld mirror, carefully inspect your mouth while you stand in front of the mirror in your bathroom. Molars, premolars, and the sides of incisors are the teeth most likely to have these holes.
At what stage do the cavities hurt?
Cavities begin as tiny pits where acid has begun to eat away at the tooth's tough outer enamel layer. At this stage, there may no longer be any pain. As the decay progresses and the hole becomes more profound and closer to the tooth's base, the cavity may become painful.