What are Dental Cavities?
BDS (Bachelor of Dental Surgery), 6 years of experience
What is the meaning of Dental Cavities?
Dental cavities are the permanently damaged areas found in the hard surface of the teeth that develop into tiny holes or openings. Dental cavities are also known as caries or decay and are one of the most common health problems faced all around the world. It can occur in people of all age groups. If the dental cavities are left untreated, they can get larger in size and affect the deeper layer of the teeth. This can lead to severe toothache, infection, and even tooth loss.
It is important to visit your dentist regularly and maintain good dental hygiene to protect you against dental cavities. In this article, we will be discussing in detail dental cavities.
What are the types of Dental Cavities?
Dental cavities can usually affect all the layers of a tooth. It can take up to three years for a dental cavity to form in the outer layer of the tooth, known as the enamel. The decay can then progress rapidly through the middle layer, known as the dentin, to the innermost layer of the tooth, known as the pulp.
The different types of dental cavities include:
- Smooth surface cavities: This is a slow-growing cavity that can dissolve the tooth enamel. This type of decay can be prevented, and sometimes even reversed, by proper brushing, flossing, and dental cleaning.
- Pit and fissure decay: Cavities are formed on the top, chewing portions of the tooth. Decay may also be seen on the front side of the back teeth.
- Root decay: This type of decay is usually seen in people who have receding gums, mostly in older adults. The recession of gums exposes the root of the tooth to plaque accumulation and subsequent decay. Root decay is usually difficult to prevent or treat.
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What are the causes of Dental Cavities?
Dental cavities are usually formed in the following way:
- The bacteria present in the mouth feed on starchy and sugary foods and drinks, like candy, bread, fruits, cereal, sodas, juice, and milk. The bacteria can convert these carbohydrates into acids.
- The bacteria, food, acid, and saliva mix together to form plaque. Plaque is a sticky substance that coats the teeth surface.
- If an individual is not brushing and flossing properly, the acids in the plaque cause dissolution of the enamel surface of the tooth, leading to the formation of cavities or holes.
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What are the risk factors of Dental Cavities?
Certain factors may increase the risk of developing dental cavities and may include:
- More common in the back teeth (premolars and molars)
- Consumption of food and drinks that can cling to the teeth for a long time, like cookies, chips, cake, soda, hard candy, mints, sugar, etc.
- Frequent snacking
- Frequent sipping on sugary drinks
- Bedtime feeding of the baby with formula, milk, juice, or other sugar-containing drinks
- Inadequate brushing
- Getting less fluoride (present in toothpaste and water supplies)
- Young age or old age
- Dry mouth
- Worn-out fillings
- Ill-fitting dentures and other dental devices
- Eating disorders, like anorexia and bulimia
- Heartburn (the stomach acid flows back into the mouth)
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When the dental cavity becomes deep, patients are advised to get root canal treatment, after which many patients are given dental crowns. In cases of extreme tooth decay, the tooth is extracted and empty space in the mouth is replaced by a dental implant. There are many reputed dentists in India in different cities where Dental Implants are placed with great success.
What are the symptoms of Dental Cavities?
In the early stages of tooth decay usually, no symptoms are seen. However, in the later stages of dental cavities, the following symptoms may be seen:
- Sensitivity of tooth
- Pain on eating or drinking food that may be sweet, cold, or hot
- Visible pits or holes seen on the tooth surface
- Pain while chewing or biting
- Black, brown, or white staining on the surface of a tooth
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How to diagnose Dental Cavities?
- Clinical examination: The dentist will ask about the symptoms of the patient, which may include pain, sensitivity, or swelling. The teeth and mouth are clinically examined. The teeth are probed using dental instruments to check for cavities.
- Dental x-rays: These are useful in determining the extent of tooth decay and cavities.
What is the treatment for Dental Cavities?
Regular check-ups by your dentist help in the identification of dental cavities before they cause serious problems.
The treatment of dental cavities depends on the extent of the condition. The various treatment options include:
- If a dental cavity has just started, a fluoride treatment can help in restoring the enamel of the tooth and may even reverse the cavity in the very early stages.
- Fluoride treatment provided by a dentist will provide more amount of fluoride than the fluoride found in toothpaste, tap water, and mouth rinses.
- Fluoride can be provided in the form of a liquid, gel, foam, or varnish that is either brushed onto the patient’s teeth or placed in a small tray that can fit over the teeth.
- Dental restorations or fillings are used for the treatment of tooth decay that has progressed beyond the early stage.
- Dental fillings can be of different types, like tooth-colored composite resins, porcelain, or dental amalgam.
- In case of weakened teeth or extensive decay, a custom-made covering that replaces the natural crown of the tooth, known as a dental crown is used.
- The decayed portion of the tooth is drilled away by the dentist, leaving behind an adequate tooth structure for adequate support and a good fit for the dental crown.
- Dental crowns may be made of resin, gold, stainless steel, high-strength porcelain, porcelain fused to metal, or other materials.
Root canal treatment:
- When the tooth decay reaches the pulp, a root canal treatment may be required.
- Root canal treatment is a procedure of removing the diseased pulp tissue, putting certain medications to clear the infection, and replacing the empty space left behind after the removal of the pulp with an inert filling material.
- A root canal treatment helps in saving a badly damaged or infected tooth, instead of removing it.
- In case of severely decayed teeth that cannot be restored, tooth removal is the only treatment option.
- Tooth extraction or removal can leave behind a gap that can cause the surrounding teeth to shift with time. To prevent this from happening, a dental implant or dental bridge may be considered to replace a missing tooth.
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What are the complications of Dental Cavities?
The complications of dental cavities may include:
- Extreme pain
- A tooth abscess (a pus pocket caused due to a bacterial infection) formation
- Broken tooth
- Loss of tooth
- Problems in chewing of food
- Shifting of adjacent teeth due to tooth loss
- Nutrition problems and weight loss
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How to prevent Dental Cavities?
The following tips can help in preventing dental cavities:
- Brushing your teeth with a fluoridated toothpaste at least twice a day, or preferably after every meal
- Rinse your mouth using mouthwash after every meal
- Flossing of teeth
- Visit your dentist at least once every six months
- Drink tap water containing fluoride
- Dental sealant (a protective plastic coating applied on the chewing surface of the tooth to prevent cavities) application by the dentist
- Avoid frequent sipping and snacking
- Eat a healthy diet
- Avoid eating sugar-containing junk food
- Get fluoride treatment
- Chewing sugar-free, xylitol-based gum
- Use antibacterial mouth rinses
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We hope we could answer all your questions about Dental Cavities through this article.
If you want to get more information and treatment about dental cavities, you can contact a good Dentist.
We only aim to give you information through the article. We do not recommend medication or treatment in any way. Only a doctor can give you the best advice and correct treatment plan.