What are Dental Cavities?
Dental cavities also known as dental caries, are the pits or holes in your teeth that develop due to tooth decay. They are a common dental complaint and develop mainly due to poor dental hygiene and consumption of excessive sugary food and drinks. Dental cavities create structural damage to your teeth and may lead to low self-esteem.
What is Tooth Decay?
Tooth decay is a slow process that occurs due to bacterial activity in your mouth. It causes damage to your teeth resulting in cavities, pus pockets, and in severe cases- tooth loss. Thus, it is necessary to maintain good oral hygiene to prevent tooth decay.
Continuous accumulation of food particles in between your teeth and gums can lead to plaque deposits. Plaque is a sticky layer that covers the surface of your teeth. It comprises food particles, saliva, and bacteria. Over a period of time, plaque may harden and form tartar which shields the bacteria making them difficult to clean.
The bacteria in plaque feed on the food in your mouth, converting the sugars from food into acid, which leads to tooth decay over a long period of time.
What are the Causes of Dental Cavities/Dental Caries?
Dental cavities/caries develop due to tooth decay which is in turn caused due to the following reasons:
- Poor oral hygiene which includes not brushing your teeth properly or regularly
- Consuming foods rich in carbohydrates (sugars and starches)
- Frequent snacking
- Consumption of sticky/oily foods that tend to remain in your mouth for a longer time
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Dental Cavities/Dental Caries?
The typical signs and symptoms of dental cavities include:
- Tooth pain, especially after taking:
- hot or cold foods and drinks
- Holes/pits in your teeth
How are Dental Cavities/Dental Caries Diagnosed?
Your dentist will perform a thorough dental exam. Your teeth will be examined and dental X-rays may also be performed to determine the extent of damage to your teeth.
What are the Treatment Options for Dental Cavities/Dental Caries?
The common treatment options for dental cavities/dental caries include:
- Dental fillings
- Dental crowns
- Root canals
For this procedure, your dentist removes the decayed tooth material with a drill and replaces it with a biocompatible substance such as composite resin. Composite resin gives your tooth a more natural appearance and is the preferred dental filling.
Dental crowns act as a cap for your teeth. For placing a dental crown, your dentist removes the decayed or weakened area in your tooth. The remaining portion of your tooth is fitted with a crown which could be made of gold, porcelain, or a porcelain-metal combination.
A root canal is recommended if the nerve in your tooth dies from decay or injury. The central part of your tooth which includes the pulp (blood vessel tissue) and the nerve is removed along with the decayed portions of your tooth. The dental roots are filled with a sealant which provides protection to your tooth and prevents further damage. The tooth is then filled and a crown may be placed over it.
How to Prevent Dental Cavities/Dental Caries?
Some good oral practices to prevent dental cavities/dental caries include:
- Brush regularly with fluoride toothpaste
- Use antibacterial mouth rinses
- Rinse your mouth after meals
- Avoid sugary foods
- Avoid frequent snacking and sipping
- Visit your dentist regularly
Tips to Prevent Dental Cavities in Children
If you have kids at home or are worried about the oral health of your child, you should make your kids understand the importance of disease-free gums and teeth. Your children should practice healthy habits such as:
- Brush twice a day and floss once a day
- Avoid over-consumption of sweets, starchy foods, and caffeinated/bottled drinks
- Include more fresh fruits and vegetables in their diet
- Drink sufficient water
- Eat healthy nuts
- Teach your children not to share food and drinks as bacteria may spread due to food swapping
Do not skip periodic visits to your dentist to ensure you get timely treatment before any major dental problem can occur.