How to treat cavities
Cavities are the most common disease related to the mouth and teeth. Moreover, a large amount of the global population gets at least one cavity throughout their lifetime. Although your teeth are designed to be resistant and strong enough to withstand biting and eating without chipping, they are still vulnerable to bacterial attacks that weaken the enamel. This can result in a hole in your teeth that is usually referred to as a cavity or caries. Moreover, although it may not initially hurt, it is a serious matter that requires immediate attention.
Therefore, once the cavity has formed, the only option is to book an appointment with the dentist before it continues to expand and cause a more grave problem. Fortunately, the dentist possesses all the tools necessary to treat cavities, whether they are in an initial or advanced stage. Moreover, they are trained to identify them even if they are small and unnoticeable.
What are the reasons behind cavities
Cavities are formed when the enamel demineralize and weakens, leaving a hole behind. This occurs due to bacteria in your mouth. Certain bacteria, such as S. Mutans, consume and metabolize the sugar residues left on your teeth after eating. This is done for them to replicate and survive. However, doing so produces acid that causes the enamel to demineralize. Once a tooth has been exposed to the acid for a long time, the demineralization quickly progresses into a cavity that will only expand and get bigger. Therefore, eating large amounts of sugar will give more nutrients to bacteria, producing more acid and causing more damage to the teeth. Furthermore, cavities are not only related to excessive sugar consumption. Other conditions, such as dry mouth and smoking, can leave your teeth unprotected and susceptible to acids from bacteria. How does food affect the teeth and cavities?
Sugar is the principal food source of harmful bacteria. Therefore, treats like candies, cookies, and sodas can affect your teeth negatively. However, they are not the only ones that can cause damage. A few food and drinks that may be healthy can be harmful to your teeth, such as fruit juices, which contain sugar, and citric fruits, which are highly acidic and weaken the enamel. On the other hand, food containing calcium and magnesium, such as cheese, yogurt, and almonds, can give teeth the necessary nutrients to prevent cavities and decrease the damage caused by acid.
How to prevent cavities
Good habits and the help of a dentist are all it takes to keep your teeth healthy and free of cavities. The recommended measures include:
Good oral hygiene: Brushing your teeth and flossing will remove sugar leftovers, preventing bacteria from producing acid.
Professional cleanings: Tartar can form even with the best oral care routine. Tartar is a solid mass containing bacteria generated when plaque is not removed. As it is tightly attached to the teeth, it can only be removed by a professional cleaning.
Fluoride treatments: Fluoride is a mineral that helps strengthen the teeth. It can be helpful in early caries cases where enamel demineralization has already begun, but the cavity has not formed yet.
How to treat cavities
The dentist performs a thorough clinical and radiographic examination of the teeth. This allows him to find even caries in their initial stage. Afterward, a treatment plan is designed. The dentist then removes the decayed tissue from the tooth, cleaning the cavity, leaving it ready for restoration with a filling material.
The most common filling materials include:
- Composite: A resin material with a tooth-like color
- Amalgam: A metallic alloy that is highly resistant but not aesthetically pleasing.
In cases of extensive cavities, the dentist may decide to restore the tooth with a crown. This prosthetic restoration covers the whole tooth to protect it and possess high aesthetic properties. As the cavity can be close to the dental pulp, the decay removal and the filling are usually done under local anesthesia to prevent any discomfort throughout the treatment.
What if a cavity is left untreated?
Unlike other parts of your body, the decayed portion of the tooth cannot regenerate or heal. The only way to restore a tooth after a cavity has formed is through a dental filling. Moreover, leaving the cavity untreated will only cause it to expand. In fact, cavities grow to teeth’ inner layers in a pyramidal pattern. The tip faces the outside, making the cavity look smaller than it is, while the base meets the deeper layers of the tooth.
As it gets bigger and deeper, the pulp gets swollen, causing a toothache. This pain is only triggered by stimuli, such as contact with cold or hot drinks, especially in the early stages. However, once it progresses, the pain can be spontaneous without triggers. In the worst-case scenario, if the cavity is left unattended for a long time, it can cause severe damage that results in a dental abscess or a tooth extraction.