Cavities are the primary cause of tooth loss. Cavities are the most common dental disorder and the second most common health condition after the common cold, according to the National Institute of Health. Cavities can be identified and treated well before significant damage.
Causes of Cavities
- Insufficient dental hygiene
- A diet high high in sugar and starch
- Insufficient saliva production, usually caused by disease or medications
- Drug use
Cavity Severity Stages and Symptoms
- Cavities in early stages have few or no symptoms. You may experience a slight sensitivity to cold and mild tooth discoloration, caused by enamel erosion.
- When the cavity penetrates the dentin (primary tooth material beneath the enamel), a dark spot appears along with increased tooth sensitivity.
- When the tooth’s pulp (living connective tissue deep inside the tooth) is affected, pain is intense. You are likely to experience a bad taste and mouth odor, especially in the morning. Also you may feel holes in your tooth. The nerve eventually dies, leaving the tooth exposed to an abscess (tooth infection).
Cavity severity determines treatment, which involves fillings, crowns and root canals.
- Fillings – For small cavities with most of the tooth intact. Fillings involve removing the damaged portion of the tooth and replacing it with a resistant material that can be molded to contour with the tooth. The most popular fillings are porcelain and composite resins, which can beautifully match natural teeth. Silver alloy and gold are especially resistant. However the color limits their use for back teeth. Older silver and gold fillings are often replaced with tooth-colored material.
- Crowns (or Caps) – Sufficient for treating extended cavities, crowns require removing the damaged portion of the tooth and reshaping the remaining tooth to provide a good base for the crown. The crown is attached onto the reshaped tooth and sealed with dental grade cement. Crowns are available in gold, porcelain, porcelain fused to metal, and composite. Discuss material choices with the dentist.
- Root canals – You qualify for a root canal when a cavity reaches the tooth’s pulp. Root canals involve removing the tooth’s pulp and nerve, cleaning the canal and sealing it to prevent debris from reentering. Depending on the amount of remaining tooth, a filling or crown completes the procedure.
- Brush at least twice a day and floss at least once a day
- Minimize food high in sugar or starch
- Visit the dentist for regular check-ups twice a year or as scheduled
- Have your teeth cleaned on your recommended schedule
Cavities happen. Don’t put up with the pain and discomfort of cavities. Schedule an appointment. The sooner you are treated the less you suffer.