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A Guide To Treating and Preventing Cavities
Cavities are one of the most common issues when it comes to oral health. These tiny holes that form in teeth have many causes. If untreated, cavities can grow and cause serious issues like infection and tooth loss.
Thankfully, modern dentistry has come a long way. There are many ways to prevent cavities or treat cavities that have already formed.
What are cavities?
Cavities are permanently damaged areas in teeth which develop into small holes. Produced by advanced tooth decay, they destroy tooth structure and weaken the tooth.
Our mouths are full of bacteria. Those bacteria feed on carbohydrates, or foods containing sugars and starches. The bacteria produce acid as a byproduct of digestion. When these carbohydrates are left on the teeth, the bacteria are able to flourish and colonize. The acid grows and eventually dissolves the tooth enamel, creating holes called cavities.
Signs of a cavity can include:
- Tooth pain
- Sensitivity to hot or cold
- Visible holes in teeth
- A toothache when the cavity comes in contact with sugar
Early symptoms of a cavity can be mild to moderate, but some do not experience any symptoms at all. Be sure to always make time for your six-month cleaning and exam to spot any problem areas before they escalate. Know that cavities can also happen between teeth and may not be visible to the untrained eye.
Preventing tooth decay begins with an excellent oral health routine, as well as taking care of your overall health.
Rinse your mouth
Rinsing with water after meals can wash away food particles from teeth. After you eat, swish with water for a few seconds to rinse and dislodge any food that might be stuck between teeth.
Brush and floss
Brush once when you wake up and again before bedtime with a fluoride toothpaste (two minutes each session). Before your bedtime brushing, floss between all your teeth to clear away stubborn particles.
Regular dental cleanings and exams
Try as we might, we cannot keep our teeth as clean as a dentist can. Keeping up with professional cleanings and exams every six months can prevent cavities and ensure great oral health in the long run.
Avoid consuming sugary foods and beverages. Steer clear of pastries and soda. Instead, try eating nutritious foods rich in Vitamin C, potassium and calcium to support healthy teeth.
Despite our best efforts, cavities can still appear. The best course of action when you suspect a cavity is to make an appointment with your dentist right away.
Catching a cavity early is crucial in saving your tooth, as untreated cavities can lead to infection and tooth loss. Advanced infections may need root canal therapy.
A viable option for repairing tooth decay, fillings are a straightforward procedure. A cavity filling is when the dentist cleans and fills the hole to relieve pain and restore the appearance of the tooth. Fillings can be made up of materials like amalgams (metallic ingredients), composites (plastic) or ceramics. Amalgams are the cheapest and most used option.
Your dentist will be able to identify the extent of the cavity through X-ray imaging. In order to make sure you are comfortable during the procedure, the dentist will likely apply local anesthesia to numb the area.
The dentist will then use tools to scrape off decay from the cavity. A dental drill is sometimes used for cases of advanced decay.
After the cavity is cleaned and prepped, the dentist will fill the cavity with material to seal the hole. Minor buffing and polishing is the final step to make the surface look more natural.
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