Cavities can be uncomfortable and painful, but thankfully, dentists can treat them. When you have a cavity, it means you have a hole in your tooth caused by decay. If left untreated, cavities can worsen, possibly leading to more serious dental issues. Your dentist will know how to fix them and prevent further damage to your teeth.
The method used to treat your cavity may depend on the severity. For small cavities, your dentist may clean out the decay and replace it with a dental filling. For larger cavities, your dentist may need to place a crown to restore and protect the damaged area.
You can prevent cavities by brushing, flossing, and visiting your dentist for regular dental exams and cleanings. But if you do end up with a cavity, don't hesitate to talk to your dentist about your options for restorative dental care.
What Is a Cavity?
A cavity, also known as tooth decay, is a hole or opening that forms on the surface of a tooth due to the breakdown of the tooth's hard outer layer (enamel) and can even reach the inner layer of your tooth (dentin). Cavities can range in size from small to large.
Cavities can be painless in their early stages, which makes regular dental exams so important for catching them before they cause further dental problems, such as infection or tooth loss.
What Causes Cavities?
Cavities can result from a combination of factors, including poor dental hygiene, a diet high in sugary or starchy foods, and a lack of fluoride in drinking water. Cavities develop in several steps:
When you eat sugary and starchy foods, the bacteria in your mouth turn these sugars into acid. Plaque is a sticky film that coats your tooth's surface made of food particles, bacteria, acid, and saliva.
If plaque remains on your tooth, the acid in the plaque can attack the enamel, creating holes or cavities.
Plaque can also harden to form tartar. The acid and bacteria can continue eroding the enamel to reach the dentin and pulp inside your teeth. When decay spreads deeper, nerves and blood vessels can become swollen and irritated, resulting in pain or sensitivity.
Symptoms of Cavities
The symptoms of cavities are dependent on their severity and their location. Initially, you may not have any symptoms, but as the cavity grows, you may experience the following symptoms:
Pain or toothache
Sensitivity and pain when you eat or drink hot, cold, or sugary things
Visible holes or pits in your teeth
Pain when you bite down
How Dentists Fix Cavities
Once your dentist has identified a cavity from a dental exam or through a dental X-ray, they can determine which option may work best for fixing that cavity to restore tooth function. There are several options your dentist may use based on the severity of a cavity.
This option involves removing the decay and filling the hole with a white filling material. Using technology such as the Solea laser can help negate the need for needles and dental drills during this type of procedure, which may be helpful for those affected by dental anxiety.
For teeth affected by more severe decay, a larger portion of your tooth may need removal, and a crown may be needed. The crown goes over the entire tooth to replace your tooth’s natural crown.
In cavities that cause severe decay, where an infection can reach the nerves and blood vessels of the tooth, a root canal may be recommended to save the tooth. The process for a root canal involves removing the infected pulp, filling the tooth, and adding a crown.
How to Prevent Cavities
When cavities are caught early, treatment can help save your tooth, but good oral hygiene can help prevent cavities from forming.
Adopting the following measures can help reduce your risk of cavities:
Brush your teeth at least twice daily with fluoride toothpaste
Floss at least once daily
Limit sugary and acidic foods
Avoid snacking between meals
Speak to your dentist about getting dental sealants on your teeth
Eat fibre-rich fruits and vegetables
Eat calcium-rich foods
Chew sugarless gum
Drink unsweetened tea
Visit your dentist for regular dental exams and cleanings
Dental Exams for Cavity Prevention
Remember, caring for your teeth is essential for maintaining good oral health and overall health. Cavities are treatable, but they are also preventable.
When you book an appointment with Dental Haus, our dentists can offer treatments such as fillings, crowns, or root canals to fix cavities and prevent further damage to your teeth.