Cavities 101: What Are They and Why Do They Matter?

Cavities 101: What Are They and Why Do They Matter?

What exactly is a cavity?


Our mouths are home to hundreds of different types of bacteria. And while some of those bacteria help keep our mouths healthy, others can cause tooth decay.

When foods that are high in carbohydrates and sugars get stuck on our teeth, the bad bacteria in our mouths turn these food particles into acid. This acid contributes to the buildup of plaque, which breaks down the enamel, or the outer layer of our teeth, and creates holes known as cavities.

While many people believe that only children are susceptible to cavities, the changes that occur in our mouths later in life paired with poor dental hygiene can leave adults at the risk of experiencing tooth decay.

So, how do you treat a cavity or even prevent them from happening? We’ve answered some of your frequently asked questions about dental cavities and keeping your smile healthy.


How do you know if you have a cavity?


The symptoms of tooth decay will vary from person to person depending on the extent and location of the decay. When a cavity is just starting to develop, you may not notice any symptoms. However, as the decay increases, you may start to encounter symptoms like:

  1. Toothache
  2. Tooth sensitivity
  3. Mild to sharp pain while eating or drinking something sweet, hot, or cold
  4. Visible holes or pits in your teeth
  5. Brown, black, or white staining on your tooth surface
  6. Pain when you bite down


When should you see a dentist?


Because the symptoms of tooth decay can be subtle, or even non-existent, it is important to see your dentist for regular check-ups and cleanings. Not only will they be able to spot any signs of tooth decay, but they will also provide you with a thorough professional cleaning that will remove any plaque buildup from your teeth.


If you are experiencing any of the symptoms associated with cavities, be sure to schedule an appointment with your dentist as soon as possible.


What is the treatment for a cavity?


The treatment of a cavity will depend on how much tooth decay has occurred. Most often, your dentist will numb the area around your infected tooth and then use a small drill to remove the decayed part of your tooth. They will then fill the hole with a filling that prevents bacteria from entering the tooth.


A tooth may break if the amount of decay on the tooth is excessive. In this case, your dentist will use a crown to cover and support your tooth. If you leave a cavity untreated, you may end up needing to have the infected tooth removed or get a root canal. During this procedure, your dentist will remove the bacteria and the dying or dead tissue from inside of your tooth.


How can you prevent cavities?


Maintaining good oral and dental hygiene can help you prevent tooth decay. Here are some tips to help you avoid cavities:

  1. Brush your teeth with a fluoride toothpaste at least twice a day
  2. Use mouth rinse to help fight plaque in hard to reach places
  3. Floss daily to remove plaque from in between your teeth and under your gum line
  4. Limit the amount of sugary or starchy foods that you consume
  5. Schedule regular dental appointments for professional cleanings and dental exams