Our teeth make up our smile, help us eat, and help us speak properly. Once your adult teeth replace your baby teeth, your smile is set for life, and it’s in your best interest to take preventive steps to keep your teeth cavity-free.
Dr. Doyle Freano is a Lexington, KY dentist offering complete dentistry for all ages. Our team is passionate about protecting your oral health and preventing cavities. Learn more about what causes them and how to prevent them below.
What Is A Cavity?
Cavities are spots of tooth decay where the hard outer layer of the tooth, called enamel, has weakened and broken open. The sensitive tissues inside the teeth become exposed, leading to increased sensitivity to temperature, pain when chewing with the affected tooth, or even lead to a deeper infection.
Cavities are the most commonly-diagnosed condition, second only to the common cold, in the developed world. Fortunately, your oral health is in your hands, and you can prevent cavities. And if you do wind up with one, the treatment is simple and straightforward.
How Do Cavities Form?
Naturally-occurring oral bacteria are always working in the mouth, feeding off of leftover food particles and mucus on the teeth. These particles combine to form plaque, which is a sticky substance that sticks to the teeth that is normally removed by brushing and flossing. This process releases acids that break down enamel, and if left too long, they will create small holes in the enamel.
These bacteria tend to concentrate in areas that are difficult to clean, such as in between teeth and at the gum line. Many cavities form in between teeth, because it is more difficult to remove plaque there. Most plaque is removed with flossing and brushing, but the plaque that is left over forms tartar, which is a hardened form of plaque that must be removed by a dental hygienist.
How Are Cavities Treated?
You’ve probably heard of fillings, which is the treatment dentists use to treat cavities. In this process, the holes in the enamel are filled, which stops tooth decay and keeps bacteria out of the tissues inside of the tooth.
Fillings nowadays are mostly made of a composite resin that is cured with an ultraviolet light. Other materials include gold, silver, or a glass ionomer. Your dentist will use the best method for your case.
The single best way to prevent cavities is with your at-home oral hygiene regimen. Brushing and flossing are the most important defenses against cavities and go a long way to protecting your oral health against gum disease, decay, and the health problems associated with poor oral health.
Seeing your dentist for your regular dental checkups is also important, as they will look at your teeth to make sure there are no cavities in areas you can’t see, such as between the teeth. The hygienist will also remove any plaque that has hardened into tartar to ensure cavities don’t form beneath it.