Dental cavities are permanent damage on the teeth’s surfaces that have developed into holes.
It’s important to note that tooth decay isn’t always similar to dental cavities or caries. In the earliest stage of decay, only the enamel (outer, hardest surface of a tooth) is damaged and no holes have been formed. When the decay has progressed enough into a more severe stage, tiny openings will form and will in turn progress into holes and even cracks on the tooth, and in this stage, we call it dental cavity or caries.
Tooth decay and cavities are two of the most common health problems all around the world, and anyone who has teeth can get dental cavities (even infants with only one tooth). In turn, if cavities aren’t treated properly, they can develop into infection, abscess, and ultimately, tooth loss.
Cause of Dental Cavities
As mentioned, all dental cavities began from tooth decay, and this is not a process that happens overnight. In most cases, the tooth has decayed for a relatively long time, and by the time the cavity has formed, most of the time it’s already irreversible damage.
Tooth decay is caused by a variety off factors from the accumulation of bacteria in your mouth, overconsumption of sugars in foods and drinks, but mainly because you don’t maintain proper oral hygiene.
In general, below is the process of how decay can form and progress into a cavity:
Plaque is a thin and clear sticky film of bacteria that builds in front of your teeth. Plaque forms when sugars and starches accumulate on your teeth and not cleaned properly. Plaque that stays on your teeth for a long time can harden and form dental tartar or calculus. Hardened tartar can be very difficult to remove and will require professional teeth cleaning by a dentist.
Bacteria that accumulate in plaque will break down sugars and starches in your mouth and will produce acids in the process. The acids can then remove minerals in your tooth’s enamel creating an erosion. This process, in turn, will create holes in the enamel, and this is the early stage of cavities. Bacteria and acid can then reach and attack dentin, the next, softer layer of the teeth. As a result, this will create a cavity in the dentin and leave the tooth’s nerve exposed.
As decay develops, acids continue to attack deeper areas of your teeth, eventually reaching the are that contains your nerves and blood vessels (the tooth’s pulp). The pulp can become inflamed and swollen from the bacteria, pressing the nerves around it, causing pain. When this condition is prolonged, it can cause infections and other complications as we’ll discuss below.
Complications and Damages Caused by Dental Cavities
What will happen if your cavity is not treated properly?
As we all know, there are still many people who ignore tooth decay and cavities even after they have progressed and cause severe pain. Many people understood the severity of dental cavities but still avoid getting treated.
It’s very unwise to ignore dental cavities since they can cause permanent damages and can also contribute to other health conditions like heart disease and diabetes.
If dental cavities are left untreated, the decay and damage can eventually reach your nerves. The nerve and the surrounding area can be inflamed and swollen, and thus it will create additional pressure on the nerve, which can cause severe pain. As the cavity progresses, the nerves become more exposed to the air and continue to compromise the sensitivity within the tooth. Once the nerve has been permanently damaged, a complete extraction or a root canal procedure is usually the only option.
The cavity will expose the tooth’s pulp and nerve to bacterial attacks, which can cause severe infections. In turn, the infection can progress to surrounding gum tissues and even your jawbone, leading to increased pain, sensitivity, swelling, and other health concerns. You’ll need antibiotics to help fight the infection along with the treatment of the cavity in such cases.
Other Health Issues and Death
If you leave cavities untreated for too long, it can lead to various diseases that aren’t limited to your mouth alone. For example, bacteria can enter your bloodstream from the gap created by the cavity, and travel to the heart’s arteries. This can cause conditions called atherosclerosis. If you have diabetes, it’s also worth knowing that high blood sugar levels can increase your risks of tooth decay, cavities, and gum diseases.
Preventing Dental Cavities
Now that we’ve understood that the most important factor causing dental cavity is oral hygiene, here are some important best practices to maintain so we can effectively prevent dental cavities:
- Brush your teeth at least twice a day, use fluoride toothpaste. Thoroughly clean all parts of your mouth and teeth, don’t avoid painful and sensitive areas.
- Floss at least once a day. Flossing is effective to clean the areas between your teeth. If flossing causes pain or discomfort, you can use other alternatives like a water flosser or electric flosser.
- Visit your dentist regularly, at least twice a year (or once every six months). This is important so your dentist can perform
- Make a habit of drinking enough water throughout the day. Water can help clean your teeth and also boost saliva production. Saliva is the natural cleansing agent for your teeth and mouth.
- Cut back on sugars and starches, avoid too many sugary drinks (sodas and juices).
- If necessary, ask your dentist for preventive products like high-fluoride preventive toothpaste or special mouthwash.
- If your cavity just started, fluoride treatment can help restore your tooth’s enamel and can reverse early damages.
Cavities are one of the most common oral health diseases all around the world, but at the same time are often underestimated by many people. Treating your tooth decay as early as possible is very important so you can reverse the damage before it went permanent.
Here at Skymark Smile Centre, our team of professional dentists is experienced in treating dental cavities/caries and various complications caused by tooth decay. Give us a call immediately so we can help figure out the best possible treatment for your dental cavity issues.