Let’s face it, nobody loves going to the dentist. The idea of your gums being poked and prodded doesn’t sit well with anyone, but is important for lasting dental health. Dental health includes regular checkups, which include screening and prevention for cavities.
However, if you’re experiencing discomfort or pain and aren’t sure if you have a cavity, you can read further to see if your symptoms line up with those of a cavity.
What Exactly Are Cavities?
Cavities are another way to say tooth decay. Tooth decay is the slow destruction of your tooth’s enamel. Tooth enamel is the outer layer of your teeth that serve as a protective barrier. Your teeth are constantly forming a bacteria known as plaque, which can attack your tooth’s enamel when you consume sugary food or drinks.
What Are The Symptoms Of A Cavity?
While the only surefire way to know if you have a cavity is to see a dentist, there are some specific symptoms that may indicate you have a cavity. Some symptoms can include:
- Unexplained tooth pain
- Pain when you bite down
- Visible hole in your tooth
- Tooth sensitivity
- Painful sensation when eating or drinking
- A brown or black stain on your tooth
It should be noted that these can be indicative of other dental issues, so it’s important that you see a dentist to make sure you know what’s going on.
What Causes Cavities?
Cavities are primarily caused by the consumption of carbohydrates (which contain sugar), that stay on your teeth throughout the day and cause decay. The mixture of your saliva, the food you ate, bacteria, and acid caused by the bacteria form plaque, which hangs out on your teeth. People of any age can get cavities and certain behaviors put you at a higher risk.
Other than eating and drinking sugars, some risk factors for cavities include:
- Dry Mouth
Dry mouth is a condition where your salivary glands don’t make enough saliva to keep your mouth wet. Saliva helps to neutralize the acids in your mouth, which prevents tooth decay.
- Acid Reflux Disease
Acid reflux disease is where acid from your stomach moves up into your esophagus due to a esophageal muscle not closing properly. Acid reflux disease commonly causes stomach upset and heartburn, but can also cause cavities. This is because the same stomach acid causing you gastrointestinal grief can travel up into your throat and mouth.
- Smoking and chewing tobacco
In case you needed another reason to quit, tobacco use can cause cavities, among other diseases. Both smokers and chewing tobacco users had higher levels of cavity-causing bacteria in their mouths. In fact, chewing tobacco users are four times more likely than non-tobacco users to have decay at the tooth root.
- Not Enough Fluoride Exposure
Fluoride is naturally-occurring compound that strengthens your teeth and protects them from tooth decay. However, if you don’t have enough fluoride in your mouth, you lose these protections. Most water systems in the United States put fluoride in the water, but you can supplement this by brushing your teeth with an ADA approved toothpaste.
- Bad Brushing Habits
This one is self-explanatory. Be sure to brush your teeth thoroughly, once in the morning and once at night. If you eat something extra sugary, it may be wise to brush your teeth after that meal as well. Flossing and regular dental checkups are vital to preventing cavities as well.
- Lack Of Tooth Enamel
The amount of tooth enamel that you have is typically determined by your genetics. Some people have stronger enamel than others. If a tooth is particularly weak, a dentist may opt for a bridge, implant, or crown to preserve the structure of the tooth.
Can I See A Cavity In My Tooth In A Mirror?
The short answer is maybe. It’s much easier to tell if you have a cavity on your bottom teeth due to the position of your mouth. A dental mirror may prove more useful in spotting a cavity. Unfortunately, if you’re able to see a hole in your teeth, that means your cavity has progressed. If you spot a hole in your teeth, run your tongue over it and see if you can feel the hole. Call your dentist immediately to get the cavity filled.
How Do Dentists Treat Cavities?
Dentists treat cavities based on how severe the cavity is. For a cavity that is just beginning to form, a simple fluoride treatment can stop any further damage and reverse the tooth decay. Fluoride treatments may be administered by brushing the treatment over your teeth, or placing a gel or foam in a mouth tray to let sit on your teeth.
Some more options for cavity treatment provided by dentists include:
Dentists typically opt for fillings for most patients. Fillings simply fill the hole that the cavity left. They can be made of different materials, like resin or porcelain.
- Root Canals
Root canals are done by dentists when a cavity reaches your inner teeth, also known as the pulp. Any diseased pulp is removed from the inner tooth and medicine may be injected if needed. The diseased pulp is then replaced with a filling.
For extensive cavities, crowns may be an option. A dentist will drill away the damaged tooth, as well as shave down the rest of the tooth to make room for the dental crown. A dental crown, or cap as it’s commonly known, is a custom-fit covering made of gold, stainless steel, resin, or porcelain.
This is for the most serious of tooth decay. This might be for the tooth that is beyond repair. The dentist will safely remove the damaged tooth. For aesthetic reasons, you can opt for an implant to replace the missing tooth.
Cavities are definitely not pleasant, and the process to heal them may be uncomfortable, but it’s important to go to your local dentist if you notice any signs or symptoms. Remember, dental health is crucial to your overall wellness, and only a dentist can provide you with the dental advice and care you need.