Cavities are an oral health issue that many of us start dealing with at a young age. Most people who have gotten a dental filling know that a cavity is a hole in the tooth—and to an extent, they are correct, but there is a lot more to the process than that.
Here is some basic information about cavities, how they work, and how to avoid them!
A process that starts at birth
We are not born with the microbes in our teeth that cause cavities—we are given them through exposure. Exposure can happen in many different ways, but the most common way we get these microbes is through contact with family members and our environments. Something as innocent as a kiss from a mother is enough to start the process that makes cavities possible.
As the years go by, microbes in our mouths spread, and before long, we have colonies living on our teeth large enough to create problems.
The microbes in our mouths love to feed on food, specifically sugar. When they feed, they generate energy and secrete acids that can dissolve our tooth enamel if left unattended. The more microbes eat and convert foods like sugar, the more they multiply. Before you know it, enough acid has eaten away at a tooth to create a hole, also known as a cavity.
Cavities will continue to grow inside your teeth, spreading infection as the opening grows larger and deeper. They eat away at the tooth so much that bacteria can reach the nerves at the center of your tooth—generating excruciating discomfort. Once this happens, most teeth are so infected that they have to be pulled via oral surgery.
How to avoid cavities
Cavity prevention is as simple as brushing your teeth, flossing, using antiseptic mouthwash, and drinking water that contains fluoride. These things help strengthen your teeth from the harm that the microbes living in your mouth can cause. The primary way your teeth are strengthened is through fluoride exposure.
Fluoride is a mineral that naturally occurs on earth. This mineral also happens to be your teeth’s best weapon against protecting themselves from cavities, as fluoride contains essential components behind the production of new tooth enamel. More enamel means more protection for your teeth from cavities that may be trying to form.
Another great way to prevent cavities is to cut sugars from your diet, specifically processed sugars. While carbohydrates and other starchy foods are broken down by the human body to create simple sugars, they don’t come anywhere near the potency of processed sugar. If you need to have that cookie or piece of candy, brush your teeth and floss immediately! One of the worst things you can do is let that sugar sit on your teeth for hours on end.
Think you might have a cavity?
Usually, cavities appear with symptoms in the form of toothaches, sharp pains when biting down, and intensely painful reactions to temperate water, specifically cold water. However, if you aren’t having any of these symptoms, it doesn’t mean you are cavity-free. Sometimes we see people in our offices that had no idea they were a few weeks away from excruciating discomfort.
Regardless, the best way to prevent cavities other than daily oral care is to go to the dentist and get a cleaning at least twice a year. At Keith L. Schwartz DMD & Associates, our staff can spot cavities before they get serious. We can also give you more pointers on oral health.
Have more questions on what diet to stick to for avoiding oral health problems? We’ll provide you with all the information that you need to ensure that cavities stay away with regular brushing and flossing.