You may be surprised to find out that the most common reason our adult patients seek dental help is one many adults think they left behind in childhood: cavities. Cavities, both in children and adults, are the leading cause of dental problems and tooth loss, and an indication of problems to come. If you have cavities, our award winning dentist, Dr. Brent Lin, DDS, can treat them and help stop worse problems from forming.
There are three types of cavities: pit-and-fissure cavities, which appear in the grooves of your back teeth; smooth surface cavities, which appear on the sides of your teeth; and root cavities, which appear under the gum, on the root of the tooth.
What causes cavities?
Cavities are a type of tooth decay that causes holes in your teeth. The main cause of cavities is bacteria that converts sugar in the foods you eat into acid, and deposits the acid in the form of plaque onto your teeth. This is why your teeth feel “filmy” and gross when you haven’t brushed them. This acidic plaque attacks the enamel of your teeth, eventually breaking the enaml down and forming tiny holes, or cavities. If not treated promptly, these tiny holes gradually increase in size and lead to tooth decay.
They may also be caused by other forms of tooth damage from acidic foods and beverages to injury caused by physical trauma, although this is a little less common than bacterial buildup. There are a number of habits or lifestyles that increase your chance of developing adult cavities, including:
- Eating or drinking too much sugar and starch
- Poor oral hygiene
- Insufficient amounts of fluoride
- Drug abuse
- Chronic disease
- Grinding teeth
- Certain medications
If any of these pertain to you, we highly recommend coming in for a cleaning and checkup, especially if it’s been more than a year since your last one.
How do I know if I have a cavity?
At first, you may not actually realize that you have a cavity. Over time, you’ll begin to notice more symptoms which, if not properly dealt with, can impact your life immensely. The most common symptoms are increased tooth sensitivity, discolored enamel, unpleasant tates, and bad breath.
If the cavity has already worsened to the point of spreading inside the tooth, you may also notice dark spots on your teeth. This is cause for immediate worry, as the bacteria may then enter the pulp of the tooth, causing significant pain.
How can I prevent cavities?
Having a well-rounded dental hygiene plan is key to preventing the formation of cavities. The most important step you can take is to properly brush and floss your teeth twice a day, every day. This includes the top, bottom, front, back, and in-between with your floss, as bacteria love to hide where your brush can’t reach.
Your diet also plays a huge role in the development of cavities and tooth decay. If you eat a lot of foods high in sugar, carbohydrates, carbonation, and acid, your chances for cavities increase significantly. Don’t be fooled, though. This isn’t limited to just candy and sodas. Even healthier options such as smoothies and juices can be loaded with sugar!
Of course, you should also visit us regularly for cleaning, checkups, and preventative maintenance. During each visit, we will determine the state of your teeth and perform a thorough cleaning, which includes fluoride varnishes to help boost their resistance to decay and bacteria. If you already have small cavities forming, regular checkups can also help reduce the risk of cavity expansion.
How do you treat my cavities?
Your cavity treatment will depend on the specific stage of tooth decay. Based on the size and amount of cavities in your teeth, common treatment options may include:
- Fillings, in which Dr. Lin removes the damaged area of the tooth and fills the cavity with porcelain, composite resin, silver amalgam, or gold.
- Crowns or caps, which are used in the event that Dr. Lin must remove so much damage that the remaining tooth portion cannot hold a filling.
- Root canals, the dreaded surgery that requires removal of the pulp and nerve before sealing it shut with a crown.
Cavities are no fun, but they affect more adults than you may think. We understand life is busy and that dental health isn’t always at the forefront of your mind. But, a little bit of prevention goes a long way! Schedule an appointment with us today for a checkup, cleaning, and preventive maintenance to keep your teeth healthy and your mouth pain-free.