Everything You Need to Know but Afraid to Ask Your Dentist About Cavities
As a kid, the dentist was one of the scariest places to visit. Nobody wanted to go to the dentist and after having their gums prodded, get the news they have one or multiple cavities. One week out from your dental visit, you’d make it a ritual to ferociously scrub at your teeth and floss once, maybe twice each day. The night beforehand, you’d secretly pray that come tomorrow morning you won’t have a cavity.
Sadly, last-minute cramming your oral hygiene didn’t pass the cavity test. The dentist immediately noticed you haven’t been taking care of your teeth, at least prior to the week leading up to your appointment. Fortunately, they’re able to fill those cavities on the same day. Walking out of the dentist with a silver tooth, you vow to yourself you’ll do a better job of taking care of your teeth in the future, so you won’t have more cavities. There was just one problem.
What are dental cavities? Ancient civilizations used to believe cavities and tooth decay were the result of a worm drinking the blood and eating the roots of your teeth. Nowadays, an 8-year-old will tell you a cavity is a result of bacteria “pooping” in your mouth after ever meal. Both of these theories aren’t very far from the truth.
The Truth About Cavities
To be straightforward, a dental cavity is a hole in your tooth. This hole is a result of acids – both natural and secreted by bacteria breaking down foods – eroding the enamel protecting your teeth. As a result, the nerves inside your teeth get to meet bacteria, ending in some of the worst pain out there. Exposed nerves are extremely sensitive and have you feeling pain every time you eat, you drink, you speak, you breathe. Pain near the roots of your teeth are a good indication of tooth decay and requires immediate dental assistance.
Cavities are a disease. While they are easily preventable, chances are you or someone you know has had trouble with cavities. The odds don’t favor you either. According to the CDC, 9 out of 10 adults over the age of 20 have at least one cavity.
No One Thing Causes Cavities
Cavities are pretty complex and not everything is known about them to this day. However, we do know cavities don’t happen because of one thing, but rather a number of factors lining up at the same time. Those factors are your teeth and saliva, the bacteria living inside your mouth and the foods you eat.
You can’t have a cavity if you don’t have a tooth. Your teeth are very susceptible to decay, but first bacteria must adhere themselves to the surface of each tooth. This happens when they combine with proteins found in saliva and food debris, forming what is known as plaque. Plaque coats the tooth and digests any food (favoring easily digestible foods like process carbs, sugary treats and junk food) that comes in contact with it within 15 minutes.
Like yourself, bacteria have to use the restroom after it chows down, so it uses your mouth as its bathroom. Bacteria excretes acid which slowly eats away at the enamel layer. When concentrated in one spot, the acid may attack the calcium inside a tooth and cause it to dissolve. When this happens, a hole develops into the tooth, and a small colony of plaque grows inside, furthering the whole process. Every acid attack will chip away at your enamel, and once your enamel is gone, it’s gone forever.
How to Protect Yourself Against Cavities
It’s not as if your teeth are completely defenseless against plaque formation. Your saliva might cause the formation of plaque, but its also what helps remineralize dissolved areas when given the chance to. That’s where you come in. It’s your job to remove or temporarily dislodge plaque so your saliva can do its job and bulk up the remainder of your tooth enamel. All you have to do is keep up with teeth brushing and daily flossing.
More importantly, you need to be brushing your teeth before bed. While you might not be eating or drinking anything in your sleep, your mouth stops producing saliva at the same time, allowing bacteria to do a number on your teeth without repercussion. Plus, the fluoride inside toothpaste acts as shield for your teeth against subsequent acid attacks.
Treating and Preventing Cavities
A cavity isn’t the end of the world; it’s fairly simple to treat a cavity with just a visit to the dentist. In most cases, the dentist will remove the decayed parts of the tooth and fill the cavity with a strong filling such as silver or amalgam. For extreme cases where the tooth is too far gone, the dentist may recommend a dental crown or a root canal.
It may be true 9 out of 10 adults over the age of 20 have at least one cavity, but you can still prevent cavities rather easily! For starters, check what you’re eating. If it’s loaded with sugars and processed foods, switch to a sensible diet that’s nice on your teeth. Make sure you’re caring for your teeth by properly brushing and flossing your teeth. Don’t forget to visit your dentist for a cleaning once every 6 months!
As kids, we didn’t have this information available to us, but now as adults we do. It’s time you picked up healthy dental habits and protect your teeth from any more cavities. Contact us here at Atlantic Dental Group for more information today!