Even though it is common knowledge that a person should brush and floss their teeth regularly, one in four adults have cavities. Twice daily brushing and flossing keep your teeth healthy. But, even with regular brushing and flossing, cavities remain a common issue for dental patients. Further, tooth decay, which is responsible for the formation of cavities, is the second most common disease after the common cold. To have good overall health, one must not take their oral health for granted. Besides brushing and flossing your teeth, there are several other ways to prevent dental problems like cavities. Read further as we explain what a cavity is, what causes them, and our list of tips that help prevent cavities.
The Definition of a Cavity
To help understand how to prevent cavities, you should know the definition of a cavity first. To begin with, you should be aware that your mouth is full of bacteria, some helpful, some not. The harmful kind of bacteria can lead to tooth decay. And, over time, tooth decay can lead to cavities.
A cavity is actually a small hole in your tooth. In an early stage of formation, a cavity looks like a white spot on your tooth. If not treated, it will eventually start to look black or brown in color. Although cavities can form in a variety of places, they mainly start on the tops of your teeth, where you bite and chew food, or in between your teeth where food may get stuck. If the cavity is not fixed, it could cause major teeth sensitivity, infections, and pain. Untreated cavities can also cause you to lose teeth. The best option for a person to avoid forming cavities is to keep their teeth healthy to begin with. That means brushing, flossing, and seeing your dentist for annual checkups.
What Causes a Cavity to Form?
Throughout your day, bacteria in your mouth feeds off of the foods that we eat. Foods that create harmful bacteria like sugar can cause the bacteria to make acid, and this acid stays put on the surface of our teeth. The acid can wear down the surface of our teeth, and that is when cavities form.
Your tooth has a hard enamel to protect the surface, and under the enamel is the dentin. The dentin is not as hard and does not protect the teeth like the enamel. So, if the harmful bacteria has reached the dentin, it is likely that the cavity will get bigger in size and even spread. Below the dentin is the pulp of the tooth, this is where the nerves and the blood supply for the tooth exist. If the bacteria from the cavity spreads to the pulp of the tooth, an infection could grow. Dental infections can be quite serious, even life-threatening if not treated. If you have any of the following symptoms you should make an appointment to see your dentist immediately…
- pain in your mouth
- swelling in your mouth, or on your face
- redness in the mouth
- redness outside of the mouth
- a bad taste in your mouth
These are symptoms that you may have a dental infection, so do not take any of them lightly. They should be checked out by a professional dentist.
Are You At Risk for Cavities?
Unfortunately, children, teenagers, and adults are at risk for developing cavities. There is an increased risk for people who tend to have the following habits…
- Eats a lot of sugary foods or drinks and then does not brush and floss after
- Snacks between meals
- Have cracked or chipped a tooth and have not seen a dentist to fix the issue
- Have a genetic disposition towards cavities
- Have had radiation therapy for the head or neck
- Have to take medications that cause dry mouth
You will need to visit the dentist to treat a cavity. If the cavity is in an early stage the dentist can repair it with a fluoride treatment. If the cavity is deeper the dentist will probably use a filling to fix it. If the cavity is really large it may need a more complicated treatment, but unless you see the dentist, it will only worsen.
How to Prevent Cavities
Here is a list of our top tips for preventing cavities to form. Take a look below…
- Brush twice daily with fluoride toothpaste and do not forget to floss
- Drink water with fluoride
- Reduce consumption of sugary foods and drinks
- Do not forget to visit your dentist for annual, regular checkups
- You can opt to have sealants placed on the back teeth to protect them from the bacteria that causes cavities