Tooth Decay: What Causes it, How Bad is it, and When to Treat it.
Tooth decay, fortunately, is avoidable. And detecting it early can help prevent it from spreading into other teeth or deeper into your affected tooth. When cavities are treated as soon as they are discovered, as much healthy tooth structure as possible is preserved, and the cost of any necessary dental treatment is reduced.
What Causes Cavities?
Decay is the result of enamel erosion. Enamel is the hardest substance in the entire body, but it isn’t immune to bacterial plaque or acids. Diets that are high in processed carbohydrates, sugars (including natural sugars from fruit juice or even those in diet soda) and frequent snacking can lead to higher amounts of acidic biofilm inside your mouth. When plaque sits on the teeth, it gradually etches through the enamel. Eventually, a physical hole—or cavity—forms in the tooth.
Cavities are frequently found between back teeth, along the gumlines, and in the deep grooves on the chewing surfaces of back teeth. All areas where plaque tends to be thickest or not removed frequently. Especially if you don’t floss often or brush as long as you ought to.
Tooth Decay Symptoms and Diagnosis
You may believe that the first sign of a cavity is pain or a toothache. Unfortunately, it’s really not as simple as that. Although some cavities can and will eventually cause pain or discomfort, there are many other symptoms that are much more subtle. In fact, you may not even realize that they’re there at all.
Other common symptoms include sweet sensitivity, rough edges on your teeth, floss or food getting caught between teeth, or something feeling “off” when you bite down to chew.
It’s not uncommon to go in for a routine checkup, have a few dental X-rays taken, and then be told you have a cavity… even if everything appears to be in order. This is the ideal time to intervene and treat active tooth decay before it spreads into your nerve (requiring a root canal) or adjacent teeth (meaning extra fillings.)
Smaller cavities are usually best repaired with a small filling. By treating them early, the restoration is smaller, and more healthy tooth structure is preserved.
Cavities Can Spread If Left Untreated
Cavities are essentially a bacterial infection. They can—and will—spread if left untreated, so it’s important to get them fixed as soon as possible. Especially in a child’s primary (baby) tooth, which is less dense than an adult tooth is.
Cavities can also lead to other dental problems, so it’s best to nip them in the bud and get them fixed as early as you can. It is physically and scientifically impossible to reverse an active cavity and “grow” the tooth structure back, so early treatment is essential.
That being said, if we see early signs of enamel demineralization, we can reverse it with fluoride before a physical cavity is created inside of your tooth. Your enamel can re-mineralize itself with appropriate mineral supplements (fluoride applications) and good oral hygiene. But regular checkups and good home care are essential!
When to See a Dentist
If you have cavities or suspect an area of decay and are looking for a way to get them treated, Rosas Family Dentistry can help. We offer a variety of dental treatments to help you get your smile back to its best. From small fillings and fluoride to crowns and root canal therapy.
We also offer regular checkups to help catch cavities early and prevent them from developing into more serious problems.
At Rosas Family Dentistry, you can view your digital dental images during your exam, allowing you to co-plan your treatment alongside of our Clear Lake dentist. On an X-ray, the dark triangle of tooth decay may be visible between teeth, when it isn’t otherwise possible to see it inside your mouth. The same can be said for cavities just under the chewing surfaces of your back teeth. Depending on the size of the area, we may want to treat it right away or monitor it.
Earlier Care Prolongs Life Of Your Tooth
When left untreated, cavities can cause tooth decay and even tooth loss. Not just in the affected teeth, but the neighboring ones as well. Cavities that are treated early stop the spread of disease into your surrounding smile.
Schedule a Checkup Today
Speak with our Clear Lake dental team about simple ways to reduce your risk of tooth decay, such as regular checkups, improved oral hygiene, and fluoride supplements. Call Rosas Family Dentistry today to schedule an appointment!