Tooth decay leads to cavities, since it destroys the outer layer of your teeth, the enamel. This affects adults, children and teenagers. The sticky plaque forms on your teeth whenever you drink or eat foods that contain sugar. This plaque contains bacteria that attack the enamel of your teeth. That’s when many cavities occur.
Cavities are found more commonly in children, but changes caused by aging can cause cavities for adults, too. As you age, your gums recede from your teeth, leading to gum disease and the exposure of the roots of your teeth. The roots of even adult teeth are susceptible to tooth decay and sensitivity to cold and hot.
What are Dental Cavities?
Dental cavities, also known as caries, are holes in the outer layers of teeth, the enamel and dentin. Over 90% of the US population have cavities, according to statistics. Most cavities are relatively small, and may go unnoticed if they are not uncomfortable or if they are painful.
Larger cavities in the teeth can trap particles of food, irritating the pulp. This causes toothaches. In addition, sweet and sour food and hot or cold food or drink can also lead to toothaches. You know that pain can inform you of a cavity, but how will you know if you have a cavity, if it’s not painful? And how can you prevent them?
How to Tell if You Have a Cavity
Cavities form due to a number of different factors. They include over-indulgence in sugary foods, bacteria and poor dental hygiene.
Tooth decay signs may vary, depending on where the tooth is and how extensive the decay is. When decay is just beginning, it’s not possible to detect a cavity. As cavities get bigger, however, you will notice signs, including:
If you have a cavity, that tooth will become quite sensitive. It will let you know of changes in the temperature of foods and drinks. This is common. The sensitivity begins when decay claims the top enamel layer, which affects the layer beneath it.
- Sensitivity to hot and cold
Some people have sensitive teeth, even if they don’t have cavities. So this can be normal in some cases. If you suddenly notice sensitivity to temperature, this is a sign of gum recession, early decay or a cavity.
- Sensitivity to sugars and sweets
This is a common sign of a cavity. It is a tingling feeling in the tooth/teeth when you eat sweet foods or drink sweet drinks.
This pain is generally self-triggered. It is the most annoying sign of irreversible pulpitis, which means there is a serious cavity. If your tooth starts to ache when you’re not eating or drinking, then the nerves are being infected by irritants or bacteria. The nerve itself may even be dying.
The second toothache pain type occurs when your tooth/teeth come into contact with food, either when chewing or when moving it around in your mouth before you swallow. Toothaches can make it hard to sleep overnight and cause you to experience a diminished ability to concentrate. If you have a fever that emanates from your toothache, you should schedule a dental appointment.
- Hole or Dark Spot in Tooth
This is the truest symptom of tooth decay. If your tooth/teeth develop a hole, that means that there has been erosion of your enamel. Your dentist will x-ray your tooth to see whether the hole was cavity-caused.
A dark spot on the surface of a tooth may also indicate tooth decay. Consult your dentist to determine whether any darks pots are caused by tooth decay.
- Bad Breath
Cavities are one of a number of factors that can give you bad breath. Tooth decay allows for the proliferation of bacteria, which leads to bad breath. If you never had bad breath daily before, and now you do, it could be due to cavities in your teeth.
For more information about cavities, watch this VIDEO.
Preventing a Cavity
You should brush your teeth twice a day or more using a fluoride toothpaste. If you can manage it, brushing your teeth after every meal is ideal. Brush them before you go to bed at night, too. Use floss or floss sticks to clean between your teeth once or twice a day.
Drink fluoridated water every day. One pint each day is helpful in the prevention of tooth decay. Schedule regular visits with your dentist and talk about getting supplemental fluoride treatments to strengthen your teeth. Be sure you visit once a year or more often, for examination and dental cleaning.
Eat more healthy foods, and cut down on snacks. Avoid foods like candy, chips and pretzels, since they cause plaque on your teeth. If you eat foods that are sticky, brush your teeth right after you eat them.
Speak to your dental specialist about using dental sealants. These are protective coatings that are made from plastic. Your dentist can apply them to the normal chewing surfaces of your teeth, to protect them.
Researchers in dental health are continuously looking into prevention of tooth decay. According to one recent study, if you or your children chew gum that is sweetened with xylitol, it is helpful in temporarily halting the growth of bacteria in your teeth, which aids in the prevention of tooth decay.
To learn more about preventing tooth decay, you can watch this VIDEO.