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Your dental health is very important, which is why you need to know the ins-and-outs of problems caused by poor dental hygiene. The following guide to cavities will help you understand what they are, what causes them, and what you should do if you suspect you have cavities.
WHAT ARE CAVITIES?
Cavities are tooth decay. Tooth decay occurs when bacteria create an acid which in turn destroys your tooth’s protective enamel layer. Whenever you eat or drink, bacteria enter the mouth and begin to create acids; these acids strip your teeth enamel of essential minerals, damaging it. When this bacterium builds up on your teeth over time, it is called dental plaque. Eventually, the layer underneath the enamel–called dentin–may also be damaged by dental plaque, which will eventually lead to your tooth’s nerve being decayed and infected.
WHAT CAUSES CAVITIES?
Cavities can technically be caused by any food or drink which produces bacteria in the mouth. Certain foods are more prone to damaging your teeth than others, including foods and drinks which are high in acidity and/or sugar. Hard candies, sticky candies and anything that sticks to your teeth is particularly known for promoting cavity development.
SIGNS OF CAVITIES
If you have any pain or sensitivity in your mouth when you eat or drink, then you may have cavities. Your dentist may also spot cavities by seeing visible tooth decay on the surface of your teeth or by taking an x-ray to see if a cavity has penetrated your enamel into your tooth’s dentin or nerve. During a cleaning, the dental hygienist or dentist may test for cavities by applying pressure with a pick to a suspected cavity; cavities are often “sticky” to the touch, which can be a sign of decay.
PREVENTION OF CAVITIES
You can prevent cavities with some simple hygiene steps and tips. Always brush and floss your teeth daily, as this removes built-up plaque and bacteria inside your mouth. You should also avoid eating anything that has too much sugar or starch, as these produce more bacterial acids than other types of foods. You can also consider using an anti-bacterial mouth rinse, which can reduce the number of bacteria inside your mouth and therefore reduce the chance of cavities.
If you have cavities, your dentist will likely want to treat them with either sealants or fillings depending on the severity of the cavity in question. If the decay hasn’t penetrated the enamel layer, the dentist will apply a sealant to the tooth to protect it from further damage. If the enamel has been damaged, however, then the tooth needs to be filled. In some cases, a root canal may be necessary if the tooth decay has reached the nerve of the tooth.
Cavities can cause all sorts of havoc in your mouth. That is why it is important to practice good dental hygiene when it comes to brushing and flossing regularly, avoiding sugary foods, and keeping up with dental cleanings to prevent plaque build-up.