Dental cavities, or tooth decay, are among the most common dental problems. They affect over half of the adult population in the United States.
The good news is that with proper dental care, including regular cleanings and checkups, cavities can be treated. This can also help prevented them before progressing to a dangerous level. Here’s what you need to know about cavities and when you should see a dentist.
What Are Cavities?
Cavities, also known as tooth decay, are teeth that have been weakened by plaque buildup. Plaque is made up of bacteria and acids that erode your tooth enamel over time. If left untreated, cavities can cause pain and lead to oral surgery or tooth extraction.
To prevent cavities from forming on your teeth, removing plaque buildup from your teeth daily is important. You can use several methods to remove plaque from your teeth. These can include brushing with fluoride-containing toothpaste, flossing, eating sugar-free snacks, and getting regular dental cleanings at your dentist’s office.
Signs Of Cavities
The most obvious sign of a cavity is that you have a toothache. So, it’s worth taking time to get regular checkups. However, not all toothaches are caused by cavities. Be alert for other symptoms like bleeding gums, loose teeth, or bad breath.
Remember that cracks or deep pits can weaken teeth. If you see any signs of weakness in your mouth, the chances are high that there is decay beneath your enamel.
Because tiny infections beneath tooth enamel go untreated, bacteria can break through and hurt your jawbone or cause heart disease. Other dental conditions besides cavities can also cause pain around your mouth.
Common Causes of Cavities
Sugary food, frequent snacking, or grinding your teeth (bruxism) can cause tooth decay. Tooth decay occurs when sugars in food are converted into acid by bacteria that live in your mouth.
The acid dissolves tooth enamel and creates tiny holes (cavities). If untreated, cavities get bigger until they reach living tissue underneath. Cavities can be treated with fillings, root canal therapy, or crowns.
When To See a Dentist?
While most dental problems can be treated by a dentist or other oral health professional. Some signs indicate it’s time to see one. For example, if you begin having persistent pain in your mouth for more than a few days, then that is a clear indication that it’s time to schedule an appointment with your local dentist.
Other signs include if you experience sharp pain. Or if you notice inflammation in just one area of your mouth but not others. If you have sores on your gums that are slow to heal or show signs of infection (such as pus). And if you feel overall ill with unexplained symptoms like fatigue, fever, swollen lymph nodes, or sore throat.
These may all be symptoms of a more serious underlying condition such as gum disease, osteoporosis, or other illnesses. Therefore, it is imperative that you visit your dentist regularly. And particularly if you are experiencing any of the symptoms described above.