Cavities are the number one cause of tooth loss, so it is important to know how to identify, prevent, and treat them. Known as “tooth decay” in medical terms, cavities are the most common dental problem and the second most common health condition after the common cold. Fortunately, cavities can be discovered in early stages and treated to avoid problems in the future.
Causes of cavities
- Improper dental hygiene
- A diet high in sugar and starch
- Lack of fluoride
- Chronic diseases or medication which inhibits saliva production
- Drug use
Symptoms of cavities
When cavities are forming, they can have symptoms that are difficult to notice. These symptoms include a slight sensitivity to cold and mild discoloration of the tooth surface. As the cavity advances on the tooth’s dentin, a dark spot will appear and the tooth sensitivity will increase. If a cavity should affect the tooth’s pulp, it can become painful and you may experience bad breath and a bad taste in your mouth. If a cavity is not treated at this point, the tooth becomes prone to infection which can cause an abscess.
Depending on the cavity’s advancement, there are different types of dental procedures you can undergo. Fillings, crowns, and root canals are the alternatives for treating a cavity:
- Fillings – Fillings are used to treat small cavities and require removing the affected portion of the tooth and replacing it with filling materials such as porcelain or composite resin.
- Crowns (or caps) – Dental crowns are used to treat larger cavities and require removing the decayed portion of the tooth and reshaping the remaining tooth to provide a good base for the crown. The crown will then be cemented over the tooth base to provide a solid structure that functions like normal and protects the tooth from damage.
- Root canals– If the cavity affects the tooth’s pulp, you may need root canal therapy. This treatment involves removing the tooth’s pulp and nerve and sealing them to prevent food and saliva from entering. Root canal therapy is typically followed with a crown to protect the tooth.
- Brush at least twice a day and floss at least once a day
- Minimize the intake of products high in sugar and starch
- Visit the dentist every six months for a complete check-up
- Ask for a professional cleaning at least once a year if you do not smoke (sooner if the tartar build-up is high) or twice a year if you smoke or chew tobacco.
Cavities are common, but they should not affect your busy life! Visit our office today for cost-effective and reliable treatment of cavities.