Each time you visit the dentist you eagerly wait in the chair as the dentist peers around the inside of your mouth to give you the final answer. “You don’t have any cavities.” Not having any cavities is a relief, but there’s more to understanding cavities than just knowing that they are painful. If you want to learn more about cavities, here are just a few frequently asked questions about them.
What is a cavity?
Tooth pain comes in different forms, but having a cavity is one way people experience it. Teeth have a protective barrier called enamel. When people are careless with their brushing and flossing habits, bacteria will begin to build up on the teeth. Bacteria break down the carbs and sugar you eat and turn them into acid which breaks down the enamel. If enamel is successfully broken, it will create a small hole or cavity. From here, bacteria will begin to attack the inner parts of the tooth the dentin and the pulp, likely giving you a toothache.
How do I know if I have a cavity?
If you think you have a cavity, take a good look at the inside of your mouth… or have somebody do it for you. The clearest sign of a cavity will be a small hole in one of your teeth. If you can’t see a hole, look for dark stains on your teeth as that is another symptom. You might also consider your current tolerance to hot and cold temperatures in your mouth along with any toothaches. While these signs are symptoms of cavities, they might also be signs of other oral health issues. If you are experiencing consistent toothaches, visit the Family Dental Health office.
How do dentists treat cavities?
There are a few ways a dentist can treat a cavity. The method the dentist uses will likely depend on the severity of the cavity.
One option the dentist has is to fill, or plug, the cavity. Dentists will drill the cavity and replace it with a filling. Fillings are made of composite or silver amalgam.
If the cavity is a bit more severe and a filling won’t be enough to stop the decay, the dentist might use a crown, otherwise known as a dental cap. Crowns look like the tops of regular teeth and are cemented to the tooth to protect it from further damage. They will remove the cavity and then cover it with a crown to keep bacteria from damaging the tooth. Crowns are designed to blend in with other teeth, giving it a more natural look.
If a cavity has progressed far enough that it has damaged any nerve endings, a dentist may need to perform a root canal. A root canal treats infected tooth pulp to help eliminate infection and protects the tooth from future bacteria attacks.
Teeth that have cavities and damaged nerve endings beyond repair will need to be pulled. While having teeth pulled is painful, it will also bring relief. To avoid the possibility of having teeth pulled, it is best to schedule an appointment with a dentist soon after you begin to feel a toothache. Postponing an appointment could be both costly and painful. Pulled teeth can be replaced with an implant to fill the space.
How can I prevent cavities?
Since cavities are painful and sometimes expensive to treat, it’s important to do your best to prevent them. Some of the following are ways you can avoid getting cavities:
- Limit sugar intake (soft drinks, candy)
- Brush your teeth twice a day for two minutes
- Use toothpaste with fluoride
- Rinse with mouthwash
- Floss at least once a day
- Visit the dentist twice a year
Preventing cavities will help keep your mouth healthy and happy.
If you have more questions about cavities, ask your dentist at Family Dental Health Center. Understanding cavities can help you prevent them, and have better oral health.