A cavity in a tooth is a permanently damaged area, where part of the tooth is missing. Cavities are caused by tooth decay which is also called dental caries. A cavity begins when the outer layer of a tooth, called tooth enamel, is eroded or damaged. Tooth decay is one of the most common problems in the world and can affect both adults and children. However, tooth decay does tend to be more common in children and teenagers. This is because their tooth enamel tends to be a bit softer and more easily eroded.
What is a Cavity?
Any kind of damage to tooth enamel will allow bacteria to get into the tooth. Tooth decay is an infection caused by bacteria. It may also be due to eating a very sugary diet, or a diet that is extremely acidic. All these factors will eventually damage your tooth enamel. While enamel is very hard, the tooth underneath is much softer and more easily damaged. This structure is called the dentin. When bacteria get in, they can soon eat away at the dentin, causing a hole or cavity to develop. Without treatment, a cavity will get larger.
A Small Lesion in Your Tooth Could Conceal a Large Cavity
One of the problems with a cavity is that a tiny opening in your tooth surface can conceal a large area of decay underneath. This increases the fragility of the tooth and could lead to it crumbling away when you bite or chew. It is just one of the reasons why we strongly suggest our patients visit our local dentist at regular intervals. Regular checkups enable us to detect even the smallest signs of a cavity. At this stage, treatment is easier, cheaper and less invasive. Early treatment also allows us to preserve more of your natural tooth, so there is a greater chance it will last for life.
What Happens if a Cavity Isn’t Treated?
Failing to treat a small cavity or lesion in a tooth will result in it getting bigger and bigger. As it gets larger, you might notice other symptoms like increased tooth sensitivity. This is because the cavity will be getting closer to the central part of your tooth which is called the pulp. Your tooth pulp contains nerves, connective tissues, and blood vessels. If bacteria reach the pulp, it will become infected and inflamed. Not surprisingly, this can be very painful and is likely to cause a toothache. What originally began as a small, easy-to-treat lesion will now require much more complex treatment. Treatment at this stage is more likely to involve root canal therapy to remove the infected pulp. If the infection is very bad, our best dentist may have to remove the tooth.
What are the Symptoms of a Cavity?
The symptoms can depend on the size of the cavity and its location. Initially, you may have few if any symptoms, which is why regular dental exams here at Avery’s Creek Family Dentistry are so important. As the cavity gets larger, you might notice you have a toothache when you eat or drink something very hot or cold. If you take a look at the tooth in the mirror, you may even see tiny holes or pits on its surface. Other signs include noticing staining on a tooth or pain when you bite or chew.
If you recognize these symptoms and are worried about a tooth, please come to see us. The sooner we can treat any cavities, the better for your dental health.
What Causes a Cavity?
A cavity can be caused by several different things. These include:
Everybody has plaque, as this is a sticky film of bacteria and other substances that gradually builds up over your tooth surfaces. If you have good oral hygiene, plaque will be removed when you brush and floss your teeth. If you fail to remove plaque then the bacteria within it will attack your tooth enamel. Plaque bacteria produce acids and toxins that will erode and weaken your tooth enamel, eventually causing cavities.
The Location of a Tooth
Tooth decay occurs most frequently in back teeth. This is because these teeth often have deep grooves and fissures that harbor bacteria and food. They are harder to keep clean than smoother, more easily accessible front teeth.
Eating Sugary and Starchy Foods
If you eat foods that tend to cling to your teeth, it worsens the damage caused by bacteria. These foods may remain on your teeth for hours, allowing these bacteria to grow and thrive.
Snacking in Between Meals
Frequent snacking has a similar effect to eating sweet, sticky foods, as your mouth will be more acidic. These acids will erode your tooth enamel more easily.
Failing to Brush and Floss Properly
If you don’t brush your teeth properly or frequently enough, or fail to floss, your risk of cavities is higher. Please don’t forget, we can help you with your brushing and flossing techniques. Just ask us for advice during your next visit.
Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral that hardens tooth enamel, increasing its resistance to decay-causing bacteria. Regular fluoride treatments can help to protect your teeth. In some cases, fluoride can help to reverse or halt a very small lesion in a tooth, preventing it from worsening. We can advise you if more fluoride would be helpful as part of your preventative dental care plan. Our local dentist can also chat to you about the use of fluoride toothpaste and mouthwash at home.
Dry mouth is a condition called xerostomia. It is where the mouth is unable to produce enough saliva to keep the mouth moist and comfortable. Saliva is essential for a healthy mouth. It helps to wash away acid and bacteria, and particles of food. If you have dry mouth, we can offer practical advice on how to deal with the condition. This will help to reduce your risk of cavities.
Leaky Fillings and Worn Out Crowns
All dental restorations have a limited lifespan. As they age they can begin to leak and crumble, letting in bacteria. This can allow tooth decay to begin beneath them, increasing your risk of developing a cavity in that tooth. We keep a close eye on all your dental restorations and will check they fit correctly and are not leaking. When the time comes, we will suggest they are replaced, before they can affect your dental health.
Eating Disorders and Heartburn
Eating disorder such as bulimia and heartburn, or gastroesophageal reflux disease can expose your teeth to strong stomach acids. These acids will eat away your tooth enamel, leaving you at increased risk of a cavity. If you have acid reflux disease or an eating disorder, please let us know at your next visit. Our friendly team here at Avery’s Creek Family Dentistry can suggest the most suitable treatment plan to help minimize the effects of these problems. We can also work with specialists or your doctor, especially to help patients overcome an eating disorder.
Are There Any Possible Complications from Having a Cavity?
A tooth cavity is such a widespread problem that it is easy not to take it seriously. However, if not treated a cavity could have potentially serious complications. These include:
• Problems with eating and chewing food
• Teeth can shift position if you lose a tooth because of a cavity
• Not being able to eat properly can cause nutritional problems or unwanted weight loss
• An untreated cavity could cause an abscess, a condition that is potentially very serious
If you have any sort of tooth pain or tooth sensitivity, please come to see us here at Avery’s Creek Family Dentistry as soon as you can. Our local dentist can examine your tooth to see if it has a cavity and can then suggest the most suitable treatment.
What is the Treatment for a Cavity?
If you only have a tiny lesion, we may choose to monitor it. Sometimes we can halt the progression of the decay by using fluoride treatments. Small cavities can often be simply filled, using the latest filling materials that include tooth-colored composite resin which is virtually invisible. Larger cavities may require a different approach. Sometimes we can repair a tooth with a porcelain or gold tooth filling that is called an inlay or onlay. If the tooth requires root canal therapy, we may need to cover it with a dental crown. Our best dentist can discuss all possible options with you.tooth filling that is called an inlay or onlay. If the tooth requires root canal therapy, we may need to cover it with a dental crown. Our best dentist can discuss all possible options with you.
The sooner you get treatment the better so please don’t delay.
Call Us Today on (828)-676-2144
Avery’s Creek Family Dentistry serves Avery’s Creek, Arden, Ashville, Oak Park, Fletcher, Royal Pines, Biltmore Park, Biltmore Forest, Bent Creek, Fairview, Beaverdam, Candler, Naples, Mills River, Enka Village, Woodside Hills and the Buncombe County area.
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