Cavities are small openings or holes in the tooth that are permanently caused due to damage to the hard surface of the tooth.
Cavities are also known as Tooth Decay or Caries.
There are a number of factors that cause cavities. These are frequent snacking, eating or drinking a lot of sugar, or starchy food bacteria in our mouth and not cleaning the teeth properly.
Cavities are most common in children and older adults. Older adults tend to develop cavities because they have receding gums and cavities develop at the root of the tooth.
To understand Tooth Cavity, we first need to understand what is inside our mouth.
What is Present in Our Mouth?
Our mouth is full of a number of bacteria both good and bad that are present on the tongue, teeth, gums and other places.
When the sugar intake is increased, these bad bacteria use that sugar component to cause infection in the tooth that further causes tooth decay.
Thus, tooth decay is caused due to infection because of a certain type of bacteria present in our mouth that uses sugar to make acids.
What Happens in Our Mouth When We Eat?
Two processes take place throughout the day in our mouths.
When we eat something during the day, the bacteria present in our mouth use the sugar components of the food to produce acids.
These acids if accumulated can cause dental plaque, tooth decay, or cavities. These acids eat away the outer surface of the permanent tooth i.e. tooth enamel.
On the other hand, the saliva contains important minerals like calcium and phosphate as well as fluoride from the toothpaste.
This eventually helps the enamel to repair itself.
A Tooth Cavity is formed due to the excess presence of acids that damage the outer coating of the tooth.
Eating and drinking beverages frequently that have sugar components in them, and produce acids. This acid attacks on the tooth increase.
The repeated cycle causes the enamel of the tooth to decay.
As a result, a white spot may appear where minerals have been lost. This is a sign of early tooth decay.
Commonly found in the rear molars of your teeth, cavities can occur on the chewing surface of the teeth. It happens because food can easily stick between the crevices and grooves on the top of the chewing surface, according to Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.
Cavities are common in older adults because they have receding gums and they easily develop at the root of the tooth, according to American Dental. Tooth decay takes place in a number of stages.
In some cases, dry mouth can also cause cavities in your mouth.
We’ll discuss them one by one in detail below.
Stages of Tooth Decay
If we do not clean the teeth regularly plaque can build up in the mouth. Over time, it becomes hard to clean it up and end up’s forming tartar.
There are five stages of tooth decay.
These are as follows:
The outer layer of our permanent teeth is made of a tissue called Enamel. It is one of the hardest tissues and is mostly made of minerals.
However, as acids attacks on our teeth increase, our teeth are exposed to plaque bacteria and the enamel begins to disappear.
As a result, a white spot appears on the tooth and is the early sign of tooth decay.
Enamel will break down if no precautions are taken.
Moreover, the white spot will turn into a brown or darker color.
As a result, a hole may form in our permanent teeth known as a cavity or dental caries.
Dentin is the softer tissue that lies under the layer of enamel. As tooth decay continues to progress it moves towards dentin.
It includes nerves that lead to the brain. When we eat something hot or cold we may feel pain, which is called sensitivity.
This means that tooth decay has progressed towards dentin.
The pulp is the innermost part of the tooth that contains nerves and blood vessels.
These nerves also provide sensation to the tooth.
If the pulp of the tooth is damaged, then it might swell or irritate.
As the swelling can accommodate in the tooth, it causes pressure on the nerves which causes pain.
As a result of pulp damage, bacteria present in the mouth attacks and causes infections. This inflammation can lead to a pocket of pus called an Abscess.
It can cause severe pain, swelling of the gums, face or jaw, and swollen lymph nodes.
A tooth abscess needs to be removed or treated as soon as possible because it can cause infection in the bones of the jaw if not treated in time.
Tooth Cavity Symptoms
The symptoms of a cavity depend on the position and location of the permanent tooth.
When a cavity is formed, it may not show any symptoms.
The symptoms of cavities are:
- If a person experiences toothache or spontaneous pain in the tooth without any apparent cause
- You experience tooth sensitivity as the tooth decay reaches down to dentin causes sensitivity
- There are visible holes or pits in the teeth
- Stains on the teeth either white, brown or a darker color
- You experience pain while eating food
What Causes Tooth Decay and Cavity?
Cavities are caused due to tooth decay. The causes of cavities are as follows:
When we eat a lot of sugar, then a clear sticky film coats our teeth. When this sticky film is not cleaned, bacteria start feeding on it and forms plaque.
This plaque can harden if not cleaned in time and can become difficult to remove.
The acids present in our mouth remove the outer layer of the teeth i.e. enamel.
When this layer is removed it causes openings or holes in the permanent teeth – that is the first stage of tooth decay.
With time, the acid can reach down to dentin, causing tooth sensitivity.
If the tooth decay is not treated in time, the bacteria further trickle down causing infection in the pulp. As a result of this infection, swelling occurs in the pulp pressing the nerve endings.
This pressure results in excess pain in the tooth and gums.
Dry mouth is a medical condition in which your mouth does not have enough saliva to keep it wet. It can happen to anyone however, it is common in people who stress or are nervous. If you do not get a treat, it can cause chewing, swallowing, and even talking difficulties in people.
Who is At the Risk of Cavity?
People of every age are at risk of the cavity. The following factors can increase the risk of cavity:
- Food and drinks that contain sugar and that which cling to the teeth for example milk, ice, sugar, soda dried fruit, hard candy, cereal, etc are more likely to cause tooth decay.
- Decay often occurs at the back of our moth usually in molars and pre-molars. As these teeth have pits and multiple roots, food can easily get trapped in these teeth.
- Inadequate cleaning or not cleaning your teeth regularly can cause tooth decay. As a result plaque forms quickly and the first stage of decay starts.
Diagnosis of Tooth Cavity
When you visit the doctor, he or she might ask you whether you have experienced the following
- Pain or sensitivity while eating hot or cold food or drinks
- The dentist would examine your mouth to check any symptoms of tooth decay
- He or she might take a dental X-ray that would show cavities and decay
Dealing with Pain
If you suspect that you have a cavity in your mouth, then you can take the following steps before the appointment with the doctor
Oral Hygiene: Clean your teeth regularly, preferably twice a day
OTC pain reliever: You could ask your doctor to prescribe an over-the-counter (OTC) pain reliever in case the pain gets worse.
Avoid eating certain food: Try to avoid food that sticks to the teeth or hot and cold food and drinks to avoid sensitivity.
Tooth Cavity Treatment
The treatment option depends on the severity of tooth decay.
You can get the treatment in one of the following ways:
During the early stages of tooth decay, a fluoride treatment can help restore the outer enamel. It stops the further progression of tooth decay.
In the initial stages, your dentist might fill your tooth with composite resin, silver or gold. It is done by drilling holes and removing the decayed material and then filling the tooth.
In case of infection, the doctor may cover your tooth. This covering is called a Crown. The decayed material is first removed before the procedure begins.
Your dentist performs a root canal when your nerve ending dies due to decay.
They remove nerve tissues, vessel tissues, and the decayed parts of the tooth.
The dentist checks for any infection or inflammation and then applies for medicine.
Lastly, your dentist fills the tooth and covers it with a crown.
Sometimes, the tooth becomes severely damaged and cannot be restored. In such cases, the tooth needs to be extracted.
Having a tooth removed leaves a gap. In such cases, the dentist might put a dental implant or a bridge to replace the missing tooth.
Dental sealant is a thin plastic coating painted on the chewing surface on the back of your teeth to prevent tooth decay. These sealants bond into the depressions and grooves of your permanent teeth forming a protective sheet over the enamel.
Prevention from Cavity
Tooth cavities are a common dental problem and can be prevented if:
- A person regularly brushes his or her teeth twice a day
- Using fluoride toothpaste at least once a day
- Eat less sugary and acidic foods like candy, juices, soda, etc
- Getting regular dental check-ups
The following foods can also help fight tooth decay.
- Food that is rich in fiber like fruits and vegetables
- Calcium-rich foods like milk
- Sugarless chewing gum
You can also use some home remedies to get rid of cavities. These are:
Oil pulling: This helps to reduce the amount of dental plaque and bacteria to some extent. Oil pulling is like using a mouth wash.
Phytic Acid: Consume moderately or avoid eating too much food containing phytic acids like cereals and legumes, wheat, and different kinds of beans.
Sugary foods and drinks: Limit the intake or avoid using such foods as they are the leading cause of tooth decay.
Licorice root: Studies suggest that Licorice root has anti-bacterial properties. These help in fighting the bacteria present in the mouth and prevents tooth decay.
Oral hygiene plays an important part in maintaining a healthy life. If problems occur in our mouth then they may cause different diseases in our whole body.
A monthly or a quarterly schedule with the dentist is important as you may not be able to identify any cavity yourself.
Dentists advise proper brushing of teeth and avoiding sugary food and drinks as they prevent tooth decay.
We should take a healthy and proper diet including whole grains, fruits, vegetables and proteins to maintain a balanced lifestyle.
If in any case, you experience pain or sensitivity, you should book an appointment with our dentists at Dr Amal Al Qedrah Medical Center to avoid a tooth cavity and any unpleasant situations in the future.