Cavities can happen to anyone with teeth, no matter how young or old they are.
When little kids first learn the basics dental hygiene, parents, teachers and dentists stress the importance of brushing and flossing to keep cavities away.
But as you get older and dental concerns start to mount, from gum disease to dealing with impacted wisdom teeth, you might forget about the risk of cavities or start to get comfortable in your oral habits, figuring that if you haven’t had one yet, you might never have one or figuring that you’ve had all the cavities you’ll ever had.
But, dentists will keep checking your teeth for decay and cavities throughout your life and you’ll want to keep protecting your teeth for many years to come. Although cavities are relatively easy to fix if caught early, left to their own devices, they can wreak havoc on your oral health.
What Is a Cavity?
The simplest definition of a cavity is a hole that develops in the enamel of the tooth. Cavities develop when plaque builds up on the teeth and plaque develops when you eat foods that contain sugar; the bacteria in your mouth eat the particles of sugar that cling to your teeth.
Plaque is a sticky and acidic substance. It not only clings to the surface of your teeth, its acidity causes it to wear away at the enamel. Left alone, the plaque continues to eat its way through the tooth. As the cavity develops, you might have some pain once the erosion has reached the inside of the tooth.
Although cavities are very common, and affect about 90 percent of people over the age of 20, according to the Centers for Disease Control, they are actually a condition that is better off prevented than treated. You can take several steps at home to help reduce your risk for cavities.
The first step to take is to drink water that has added fluoride. According to the CDC, drinking fluoridated water helps reduce the risk of a child developing cavities by up to 40 percent. Many towns and cities add fluoride to tap water, but not all do. If your area doesn’t have fluoridated water, or if you have well water, you can look for bottled water that contains added fluoride. Fluoridated bottled water is also a good option if your tap water has an unpleasant taste.
Brushing your teeth twice a day is also another essential step to take when it comes to preventing cavities. The type of toothpaste you use does matter, too. Fluoride toothpaste not only cleans plaque and debris away from the teeth. It also helps strengthen the enamel, offering an extra layer of protection against decay. Along with brushing, floss every day to get your teeth as clean as possible.
What and when you eat can also help you prevent or reduce your risk for cavities. Sugar causes decay and cavities, so your best option is to either avoid it completely or reduce the amount you eat. Stick to water, instead of soda, for example, and steer clear of sweet snacks or snacks made from refined carbohydrates, such as potato chips or pretzels. Try to choose foods that strengthen your teeth, such as cheese and dairy, as well as foods that can help scrub away plaque and debris, such as celery and carrots.
Finally, your dentist can work with you to help you prevent cavities. Seeing your dentist on a regular basis not only helps you prevent cavities by giving your teeth a good, thorough cleaning. Your dentist can also apply sealants to the back teeth, which offer further protection against cavities. A dentist might also provide a fluoride treatment or supplement in the office to further protect your teeth.
Regular dental visits also allow you to detect and treat any cavities before they develop into a big issue. In the earliest stages, a treatment of fluoride, applied to the affected tooth, can help restore the enamel and reverse the cavity. More advanced cavities are usually treated with a restoration, or filling. Fillings can be made from a variety of materials, some of which are more durable than others, and some of which match the natural color of teeth better than others.
Seeing your dentist often means that he can spot your cavities in a timely manner and help you avoid more extreme treatment options. If a cavity isn’t treated quickly and is left to progress, it can cause so much damage to the tooth that the best option is oral surgery to remove the decayed tooth.
Cavities might be common, but they aren’t unavoidable. Remembering your dental basics will help you prevent cavities throughout your life. If you are concerned about the state of your teeth or if it’s been a while since you’ve seen a dentist, now’s a great time to make an appointment. In Miami, Dr. John Paul Gallardo and Dr. William Lamas offer a range of dental services, including periodontal care and oral surgery. To schedule an appointment with the dentists, call (305) 447-1447 today.