Dental cavities are tiny holes that develop in the surface of your tooth’s enamel. Over time, this hole grows deeper and deeper, finally reaching the inside of your tooth and causing it to decay.
Dental cavities are extremely common, but they can easily be treated and prevented. Our guide will tell you everything you need to know about how cavities form, who is at risk, and how you can get a cavity diagnosed and treated.
Types of Dental Cavities
There are three main types of dental cavities.
- Smooth Surface Decay. Smooth surface cavities are formed on the sides of your teeth, including between your teeth.
- Pit and Fissure Decay. Pit and fissure decay develops when food gets stuck in the crevices in your teeth.
- Root Decay. Root decay is found at the root of your tooth, near the gumline. It is most common in older people and those with severe gum recession.
How Common Are Dental Cavities?
Dental cavities are extremely common among Canadian adults. Most people develop at least one cavity by their mid-thirties. Many of those people have more than one cavity, especially if they are older.
Regardless of how common cavities are, it is still important to get them treated as early as possible. Tooth decay can lead to serious complications (including life-threatening infections) when it is left unchecked. Do not wait to see your dentist if you suspect that you may have a cavity.
What Are the Signs of Dental Cavities?
Some symptoms of tooth cavities include:
- Discolored areas on your tooth
- Bad breath
- Bleeding gums
- Sensitivity to hot, cold, and sweet food and drink
- Facial swelling
If you experience any of these symptoms, take note of whether they get worse or come and go. Let your dentist know about your symptoms as well as their frequency and severity the next time you see them.
Tooth Decay Stages
Tooth decay happens gradually, progressing through the following stages:
- Demineralization. When plaque sits on a tooth for too long, it begins to break down the minerals inside that tooth. The affected parts of the tooth may turn chalky and white. This stage of tooth decay can be reversed with good oral hygiene.
- Enamel Decay. If demineralization is not stopped, it will progress into enamel decay. At this stage, the tooth’s enamel has broken down enough to create a hole in its outer surface.
- Dentin Decay. Untreated enamel decay eventually spreads to the dentin in the affected tooth. When tooth decay reaches this stage, a dental filling becomes necessary.
- Pulp Damage. If you wait too long to treat a tooth with decay that has reached the dentin layer, the decay may spread all the way to the pulp inside the tooth. This causes pain in the tooth and requires a root canal in addition to a dental filling or crown.
- Abscessed Tooth. A tooth with untreated pulp damage may become infected. The gums around the tooth will develop a tender pus-filled blister known as an abscess. An abscessed tooth needs immediate treatment and is considered a dental emergency.
Many dentists will not fill a cavity until it has reached the tooth’s dentin layer. Others will fill even the earliest cavities to keep them from getting worse. Talk to your dentist about their approach and how you would prefer to handle any tooth decay they find.
What Causes Dental Cavities?
Sugar consumption and inadequate oral hygiene are both causes of tooth cavities. This is because cavity formation is a three-step process.
- First, the bacteria in your mouth feed on the carbohydrates in your food. As they do so, they excrete acids. Eating foods that are high in sugar or refined carbohydrates gives the bacteria more food.
- These acids combine with the bacteria and your saliva to form a sticky substance called dental plaque.
- Dental plaque sticks to teeth and gives the acids in it more time to eat away at your tooth enamel. Brushing and flossing disrupt this process and help prevent cavities.
What Are the Risk Factors?
There are several factors that may make you more likely to develop cavities, including:
- A high-sugar diet
- Snacking frequently between meals
- Gum recession that exposes the dentin at the tooth roots
- Dry mouth (xerostomia)
- A family history of cavities
- Having had radiation therapy to treat cancer
People with more than one of these risk factors should be especially careful. Keep your teeth clean, minimize the sugar in your diet, and visit your dentist regularly to lower your risk of developing tooth decay.
How Are Cavities Diagnosed?
Cavities are diagnosed during your regular 6-month checkups at your dentist’s office. Your dentist will use X-rays and special tools to examine your teeth for decay. The tools allow them to probe the surface of your teeth for soft spots where decay may be lurking. X-rays allow them to see inside your teeth to identify decay that cannot be seen from the outside.
How Do You Get Rid of Cavities?
Depending on how severe they are, cavities can be treated using any of the following:
- Fluoride treatments
- Root canals
- Dental crowns
- Tooth extractions
The sooner you receive treatment for dental cavities, the less invasive that treatment will be.
When Should I Call a Dentist and What Should I Ask Them?
Call your dentist as soon as possible if you notice any signs of tooth cavities, including:
- Bleeding gums
- Pain your tooth
- Difficulty chewing
- Swelling in your face
- Signs of an infection
Getting early treatment is key to positive outcomes.
Visit Trillium Smile Dentistry for Stress-Free Tooth Decay Treatment
Tooth decay affects almost everyone at some point, but treating it does not have to be a difficult or frightening experience. Trillium Smile Dentistry – dentist Mississauga is here to make cavity diagnosis and treatment easy. Our friendly staff will do everything in their power to help you feel more comfortable during your appointment, including answering all of your questions about tooth decay and general oral health. Contact us today to schedule your appointment and make sure your teeth get the professional attention they need.
Also Read: How to Address and Treat Dental Cavities