By Coons Family Dental
Most people have had to deal with cavities at least once in their life. If you have ever gotten a cavity, you may have wondered what exactly was going on inside your mouth. Usually, they are the result of poor dental care, but some people get cavities even when they take great care of their teeth. So what is the deal with cavities? Our goal at Coons Family Dentist in Folsom CA is to provide plenty of educational resources to help our patients understand their dental health.
Cavities: What Causes Them?
The true cause of cavities isn’t just sugar – it’s bacteria. When you eat food containing carbohydrates (sugars and starches), the bacteria living in your mouth ‘eat’ them too. They break these complex molecules down into smaller parts which are then converted into lactic acid.
When lactic acid builds up in your mouth, it starts dissolving your tooth enamel. Enamel is the hard outer layer of your teeth that protects the sensitive inner parts of your teeth from bacterial acid attacks. If your enamel comes into contact with a lot of lactic acid for an extended period of time, holes will start forming in it. The more sugar you eat, the more lactic acid is produced by the bacteria. This is what causes cavities, also known as dental caries.
Cavities can also form when you don’t brush your teeth properly. Brushing with fluoride toothpaste is the best thing for your teeth, however many people don’t do it correctly. If you are brushing too hard or not using enough of the right kind of toothpaste, you are risking damaging your enamel and increasing your chance of getting cavities. Investing in an electric toothbrush will make it easier to clean your teeth properly.
Symptoms of Cavities
When a cavity wears down your tooth’s enamel, it can lead to pain and sensitivity when eating something hot or cold. Cavities can cause other symptoms as well, such as bad breath and discomfort when chewing food. If you don’t get a cavity filled right away, it can grow deeper and eventually reach into the tooth’s pulp. The pulp is part of what makes up the inside of your tooth. It contains important nerves that help with sensory perception in addition to blood vessels and other tissues that keep your tooth alive. Once a cavity reaches the tooth’s pulp it can cause unbearable pain and nerve damage. This is why it is so important to visit us as soon as you notice any cavity symptoms. If a cavity is left untreated for too long, it can even lead to tooth loss, which is inconvenient and expensive to fix. That’s why prevention is key when it comes to cavities.
Prevention of Dental Cavities
Most cavity prevention techniques deal with reducing the amount of plaque on your teeth. Plaque is a thin, white film of bacteria that forms on your teeth when saliva, food particles, and other fluids combine. There are several things you can do to decrease the amount of plaque buildup on your teeth and decrease your risk of developing cavities, including:
Brushing: Make sure to brush your teeth at least twice a day, preferably after meals and before you go to bed to prevent bacteria from feasting on the leftover food in your mouth as you sleep. The American Dental Association recommends brushing for 2 minutes. However, The Academy of General Dentistry recommends dentists to tell patients to brush for as long as a popular song plays, or about 3 to 4 minutes. This may be a good way to make your daily brushing more fun! Choose a song you like and scrub the plaque away! The longer you brush, the more plaque you will remove.
Flossing: Flossing is also very important in order to prevent cavities because it gets rid of all that pesky food in between your teeth that bacteria loves so much.
Drinking water: Drinking water throughout the day also helps you avoid dental decay. This is because drinking water stimulates saliva production, and saliva contains beneficial minerals that strengthen and rebuild tooth enamel. Also, water helps wash away food debris and bacteria from your teeth and gums.
Limit intake of sugary food and drinks: Be sure to limit sugary foods because they are acidic and could damage enamel if consumed too often throughout the day.
Regular dental check ups: Finally, make sure you go to the dentist for regular cleanings about once every 6-12 months. Dr. Coons at Coons Family Dental will help you keep those pearly whites healthy and beautiful while protecting you against cavities.
Flouride Treatments: If you’re looking for an effective way to protect yourself against cavities, consider applying fluoride to your teeth after brushing. Fluoride strengthens the enamel of your tooth and helps prevent cavities from occurring in between visits to the dentist.
Why Do Some People Get More Cavities?
Cavities are often a result of a lack of sufficient dental care and cleaning. But some people have impeccable dental care habits, but still get cavities. This can be extremely frustrating, but there are steps you can take to help reduce your risk of cavities even when you are at high risk. Here are some factors that can cause someone to be more prone to cavities:
Tooth shape and alignment: Teeth with deep grooves in them are more likely to trap foods and develop cavities. Similarly, misaligned teeth may collect food particles and bacteria between them more easily than straight teeth.
Genetics: Genetics can also come into play when it comes to cavities. If your genes have cursed you with thin tooth enamel, you may be more prone to develop cavities.
Dry mouth: Dry mouth can also lead to more cavities. Numerous medications can cause dry mouth so if you notice more dental problems than usual after starting a new medication, bring it up with your doctor next time you see them and ask about alternatives that don’t have the same side effects.
Teeth grinding: Lastly, some people experience frequent acid wear because they grind their teeth at night while sleeping, making them more prone to cavities.
If you are among the group of people who are more susceptible to cavities, your dentist may recommend special fluoride treatments or even prescribe antibiotics in order to protect against cavities. Dental sealants could also offer a solution. A dental sealant is a dental treatment that involves coating the chewing surface of teeth with a thin plastic material. This helps protect the tooth enamel, preventing decay and cavities.
Treatment Options For Cavities
There are several different ways that cavities are treated depending on the severity level of the cavity. The first step usually involves getting rid of all decay from inside of the tooth using special dental tools called drill bits. The dentist then fills the inside of your tooth with a material that is strong and will not break down easily. This usually involves using materials like silver amalgam, gold or composite fillings.
At Coons Family Dental in Folsom CA, we have the tools and materials needed to successfully treat cavities, no matter how severe or minor they are. Thank you for taking the time to read our guide to cavities! Feel free to contact us at (916) 983-2262 if you have any additional questions or concerns.