Most of us deal with cavities at some point in our lives, especially in childhood when more vulnerable teeth and a taste for sugar make a winning combination for tooth decay.
If you think you have a cavity, you should see a dentist sooner rather than later. Not only can an untreated cavity be painful or distracting, it can also lead to more serious problems, such as:
Severe tooth damage
Most cavities are made by bacteria on the tooth releasing acids that wear down its surface. An untreated cavity is likely to continue wearing down, becoming weaker and more prone to chip or crack.
Eventually, there might not be enough of the tooth left to repair with a filling. Restoring the tooth might require placing a dental crown, if it can be saved at all.
If a cavity grows, it can eventually expose the inside of the tooth to bacteria. This may lead to infection or inflammation of the soft tissues and nerve at the centre of the tooth, which often causes severe pain and sensitivity.
A tooth infection in its early stages can usually be treated through root canal therapy or antibiotics, but a tooth that's more badly damaged may need an extraction.
If tooth decay, an infection or gum disease isn't treated, the tooth can eventually become damaged beyond repair.
If the supporting tissues in the jaw deteriorate, the tooth may start to come loose by itself, or your dentist may recommend extracting the tooth and replacing it with either a dental implant, fixed bridge or partial dentures.
How to avoid cavities
If you want to prevent cavities, you need to understand why they form in the first place. Cavities are an effect of tooth decay and erosion, which are influenced by your diet and how well you look after your teeth.
Tooth decay is caused by bacteria that are present on the teeth. When you eat or drink anything containing sugar, some of this can stick to your teeth and may remain without careful rinsing, brushing and flossing. The bacteria feed on sugar to multiply and release acids as a by-product. These acids are what wear down teeth and cause holes (cavities) to form.
Food and drink with a high acid content – such as citrus fruits, fruit juices, soft drinks and alcoholic drinks – can also wear down teeth enamel or make it more prone to decay. Frequent vomiting and acid reflux can also expose teeth to acids over time.
To lower your risk of tooth decay and cavities, you should:
- cut down on sugary and acidic food and drink
- brush your teeth at least twice a day and floss at least once a day
- drink plenty of water to wash away leftover sugars and acids from your teeth
- visit your dentist for regular check-ups or when you notice signs of a problem
If you or your family are due for a check-up or you're worried about your teeth, call our team at St Heliers Dental Centre on (09) 575 5814 or contact us to book an appointment today.