A dental cavity is damage to the tooth’s protective enamel coating. Enamel is the hardest substance in the whole body. It’s even harder than bone. However, acids from bacteria in the mouth can erode and invade even this very toughest of barriers.
When this happens, it’s the beginning of a cavity. Cavities can range in severity from mild to very severe. Treatment can include the smallest of fillings, a root canal or even removal of the entire tooth.
Before we dig in, let me show you a quick summary of what you can do to try and prevent a cavity from getting worse.
|Cavity Causes||What You Can Do|
|Too Much Sugar||Switch To Sugar-Free Foods As Much As Possible|
|Genetic Predisposition||Best Oral Hygiene Practices – Brush Twice Daily, Floss, Antibacterial Mouthwash Rinses|
|Dry Mouth||Try Chewing Gum Containing Xylitol|
|Too Much Oral Acids||Rinse Your Mouth With Water Multiple Times A Day|
|Using Poor-Quality Dental Cleaning Tools||Try An Electric Toothbrush, Dental Water Flosser, and/or Better Toothpaste|
|Inconsistent Brushing/Flossing Routine||Read This Article On How You Should Be Cleaning Your Mouth|
Can You Stop A Cavity?
Yes and no. It’s absolutely possible to prevent a cavity from forming to begin with. Although some individuals seem to be more naturally prone to the development of cavities than others, generally speaking, cavities can at the very least be limited and retarded by some simple tips you can do every day at home.
You will read more about these tips just a little later on in this article. However, once the enamel has been breached by oral acids and an actual hole has begun, you can’t stop the inevitable cavity from eventually forming. You may be able to slow it down, however.
Tooth decay typically begins with a softening of the normally very hard enamel layer of the tooth. A white spot, possibly too tiny for you to see, may form. This means that there is a loss of minerals in the area, which is the first step to a cavity. It’s the enamel’s high mineral content which gives it its strength.
This is the very earliest stage of an actual future cavity. At this point, it is at least theoretically possible to prevent further damage.
At this very early point, a cavity can sometimes be reversed. The enamel can even repair itself using minerals naturally present in saliva. This may be one reason why some people are more prone to cavities than others, that is, the amount of these minerals present in a particular individual’s saliva.
Another way to prevent an actual cavity from forming at this very early point is by using fluoride. Fluoride is a naturally-occurring mineral that is also found in fluoridated water, fluoride toothpaste and fluoride supplements. It helps to remineralize teeth, making them stronger, and it reduces the oral acids formed from bacteria.
What Causes Cavities?
A dental cavity begins with bacterial acids. These acids help to form plaque, a sticky substance that coats the teeth. Plaque promotes tooth decay and gum disease, too. A diet high in sugars makes tooth decay far more likely because bacteria like to feed on them.
Plaque can be removed with proper flossing and brushing. That’s why these two things are so important. Flossing is necessary because it removes plaque not reachable with a toothbrush. Always use a fluoride toothpaste. If you’re not sure how to floss your teeth, ask your dentist.
The formation of oral acids is strongly related to diet. Reduce or even eliminate refined sugar from your diet. Refined sugar is bad for your teeth and bad for your body. So is soda.
Sticky, sugary foods like caramel are even worse. Not only is it high in refined sugar, called sucrose, but foods like caramel will stick to the teeth much longer, exposing enamel to even more damage.
Once the enamel’s surface has been breached, unless it is repaired before that point, a cavity will form. It’s just a matter of time. This is why regular dental exams are crucial. A dentist can spot and repair a tiny cavity before it has progressed far enough to severely affect the integrity of the tooth.
Things You Can Do to Prevent a Cavity
- Brush and floss your teeth twice a day
- Limit or eliminate refined sugar and other sugars
- Limit fruit juice intake
- Ask your dentist about fluoride intake
- Ask your dentist about dental sealants
- Always brush before bedtime
- Make sure you get enough dietary calcium
- Use an antibacterial mouthwash
All of these tips will help to prevent cavities in the first place, and all may help to hinder the progression of a cavity that has already begun. Remember, the main point in cavity prevention is to prevent the formation of oral acids, which mostly come from eating sugar and starches.
Even foods not normally thought to be sweet, such as pasta, are still a problem. This is because these foods are rapidly broken down, beginning in the mouth, into the simple sugars of which they are composed. There are more than 300 types of bacteria that can contribute to tooth decay.
Simple Tip – Rinse Your Mouth!!!
Rinse your mouth vigorously after every meal and snack, whether you later brush or not. This will help to wash away food particles and dilute oral acids. Never go to bed without brushing your teeth. This is because saliva flow, which helps to prevent tooth decay, slows down during sleep, making the formation of bacterial acids more likely.
Refined white sugar isn’t the only culprit. Honey, maple syrup and agave syrup, although natural sugars and not refined, are still just as likely to cause tooth decay as white sugar is. This is because the oral bacteria can use these natural sugars to form the acids that attack the teeth the same as they do with white sugar.
Antibacterial mouthwashes will help to reduce the chances of decay by reducing the amount of bacteria in the mouth, including the ones that promote tooth decay.
When to See a Dentist For Your Cavity
The time to see a dentist for a cavity is before it even starts. Regular dental checkups will identify problem areas that might still be amenable to repair themselves. Fluoride treatments can help kids prevent cavities, too.
If you notice any of these symptoms of a developing cavity, call your dentist immediately:
- Tooth is suddenly sensitive to sweets, cold and heat
- Pain, even if it’s mild or goes away and returns
- Pain when biting down
- Any black, brown or white spots on tooth surfaces
Never hesitate to get dental treatment. The sooner a dental cavity is repaired, the more likely you will get to keep that tooth forever. Remember, your teeth were meant to last a lifetime. Your dentist will work with you to make this a reality.