Everything you Need to Know About Cavities in Your Teeth
Cavities, also known as tooth decay, are holes that form in your tooth. Cavities start off small but, if they are left untreated, they will eventually get bigger. In its early stage, cavities may look like a white spot, brown spot or and black spot. The problem with cavities is that when they first form, they are not painful and therefore it is hard to notice them. One way of detecting cavities at an early stage is through regular dental appointments.
A report from the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed that 91% of American adults, aged 20-64, have had cavities. According to the American Dental Association (ADA) Health Policy Institute, the use of dental care in 2012 was at its lowest among since the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey began in 1996. The most common reason cited as to why adults do not visit a dentist regularly is due to high costs and the belief that they do not require dental care. This suggested that great sensitization and public health campaigns were needed, which triggered the ADA’s Action for Dental Health in 2013. The purpose of this the Action for Dental Health was to increase dental health, to prevent dental diseases and to expand public and private sector dental outreach. It was a nationwide, community-based campaign that aimed to provide immediate attention to those who suffer from untreated dental problems. Dr. Feinberg, the ADA President, emphasis dental prevention over dental treatment. It is far more effective to prevent a problem, rather than wait for the problem to occur. Once a problem occurs, treatment can become painful, costly and time-consuming.
If you were to ask, “What is a dental emergency?” as in, what are all the different pains, and symptoms, cavities are one of them.
Are Cavities Common?
Statistics prove that cavities in teeth are extremely common. In America, more than 90% of adults aged 20 and above have experienced tooth decay, while 57% of adolescents aged 12-19 years have had cavities. Among young children, over 52% have had a cavity in their baby teeth.
According to the CDC, demographic and sociocultural factors play a role in explaining a person’s likeliness of developing cavities. The percentages (%) of adults aged 65 or older with untreated tooth decay between 2011-2016 are as follows. By ethnicity group: Mexican American (36%); non-Hispanic black (29%); non-Hispanic white (13%). In terms of income: low income (33%); high income (9%). In terms of education: less than high school education (31%); more than high school education (12%)/ In terms of smoking: currently smoking cigarettes (34%); never smoked cigarettes (14%). In summary, a person is more likely to experience cavities if they are from an ethnic minority group, from a low-income group, have a low level of formal education and smoke.
Early Childhood Decay
According to the Canadian Dental Association, as soon as children develop teeth, they are vulnerable to tooth decay. This is because breast milk, formula milk, cow’s milk and fruit juice all contain sugars. When babies are fed milk just before they go to sleep or during the night, their chances of experiencing tooth decay increases. To stop giving a child a bottle of milk at bedtime, the parent should try to gradually replace the milk in the bottle with water or give the child a comfort blanket or comfort toy.
Once a child has teeth it is important to lift their gums and check their teeth for signs of tooth decay at least once a month. The parent should look for signs of dull white spots or lines on the teeth or dark teeth. If the parent is still unsure of what to look for, the parent should consult a dentist.
What are Symptoms of a Cavity and Are Cavities Painful?
Symptoms of cavities typically include tooth sensitivity; tooth pain; a visible hole in the tooth; black or white staining on the tooth; toothache; pain when biting; bad breath; and an unpleasant taste in your mouth; swelling or bleeding gums. These symptoms will now be discussed in more detail.
Tooth sensitivity– you may be ultra-sensitive to cold and hot foods. Try to eat food that has a plain temperature, such as a sandwich.
Tooth pain– tooth pain from cavities may include continuous pain while you sleep; occasional sharp pain; pain when biting; pain when chewing and eating.
Visible hole-some visible holes in your tooth cannot be treated at home. You must see a dentist. Dental treatment may include fillings, crowns, root canal and removing part/ all of your tooth.
Staining– There are some home remedies to treat staining. These include brushing teeth with a mixture of baking soda and water every few days; rising your mouth with a diluted hydrogen peroxide solution every few days; whitening mouthwashes containing hydrogen peroxide; whitening toothpastes with sodium hypochlorite; whitening strips containing carbamide peroxide. However, these are temporary treatment solutions. You must visit your dentist for long-term solutions.
Toothache– toothache can temporarily be eased by taking painkillers, such as ibuprofen and paracetamol; rising your mouth with salt water; using pain-relief gel; avoiding foods that are difficult to chew.
Bad breath– bad breath can be caused by tooth decay, among other causes. Bad breath can be treated by gently brushing your teeth and gums twice a day for two minutes; using a fluoride toothpaste; cleaning between teeth with floss once a day; cleaning your tongue with a special tongue scraper once a day; going to the dentists regularly for a check-up; using antibacterial mouthwash.
Unpleasant taste in your mouth– to treat a bad taste in your mouth, you can gargle water; use toothpaste to brush your teeth, tongue and root of mouth; chew sugar-free mints; floss once a day.
Swelling or bleeding gums– your gums may appear red and swollen and in pain.
What Causes Cavities?
Cavities are caused by plaque. Plaque is a combination of bacteria, saliva, acid and food particles. Plaque is colourless or pale yellow and creates a fuzzy sensation around your teeth. Plaque starts to form on your teeth after eating or drinking anything sugary. The bacteria in your mouth then turns this sugar into acid. The acid in plaque can gradually erode tooth enamel. Enamel is a protective coat around your teeth that serves to prevent tooth decay. Hence, if acid weakens your enamel, you are at great risk of experience tooth decay, and thus cavities.
Some people have a greater chance of developing cavities than others. Certain factors, including high consumption of sugary or acidic foods and drinks; poor dental hygiene routine; lack of flossing; lack of enough fluoride; a dry/ dehydrated mouth; eating disorders such as bulimia and anorexia; acid reflex disease in which stomach acid reduces tooth enamel; having a personal or family history of cavities; having cracked or chipped teeth.
Typically, cavities are more prone to develop in your back teeth, because back teeth have more gaps that can store food particles. Exacerbating this, it is harder to reach your back teeth when flossing and brushing.
How Do you Prevent Cavities?
Since plaques contribute to the cause of tooth decay, it is important to remove plaque. To remove plaque, you should brush your teeth regularly. The best way to remove plaque is to floss before you brush your teeth. This is because flossing removes any loose food particles and makes your brushing technique more effective.
It is advised to brush your teeth at least twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste. Moreover, the American Dental Association recommends that you floss your teeth once a day.
In terms of consumption, it is best to limit consumption of sugary and acidic foods such as candy, juice, soda and refined carbohydrates. It is also wise to limit snacking between meals to prevent the build-up of additional food particles. Some foods reduce the risk of tooth decay, particularly fibre-rich fruits and vegetables; water and fluoride; unsweetened black or green tea; xylitol sugarless chewing gum; calcium-rich foods.
How do you Treat Cavities
Immediately, patients ask “Can you go to an emergency dentist with a toothache?” and the answer is always yet to avoid future problems. At the dental office, there are some treatment options for cavities, which include tooth filings, crowns and root canal. Cavities can be treated by tooth fillings because the dentist drills and removes decayed material from a tooth. Severe cavities can be treated by crowns, whereby the dentist places a custom-fit cap over the tooth to replace its natural crown. Root canal is performed when tooth decay causes the death of your nerves. During a root canal, the dentist removes the nerve tissue, blood vessel tissues and any decayed areas of the tooth, then checks for infection. The tooth is then filled, and a crown might be placed on it.
Are Cavities Bad?
Cavities can be very bad and have serious consequences if they are left untreated. If cavities are untreated, the cay will gradually reach your nerves. This can be very painful because nerves become exposed to air, and the tooth with require root cancel or removal. A bad cavity can also lead to infection in the mouth and jaw. Infection requires medical attention and antibiotics. In extremely rare occasions, cavities can lead to serious infections that can cause illness or even death. This is why it is important to see the dentist as soon as you develop symptoms of cavities.
Misinformation Around Cavities
It is important to be aware that not everything we hear about cavities is true. One piece of misinformation is that children get more cavities than adults. Adults are more prone to get cavities due to medicines that dry out your mouth; a dry mouth means there is less saliva in your mouth, and saliva is needed to protect your teeth.
Another piece of misinformation is that you will know when you have a cavity. This is not true, because cavities are often difficult to detect, especially in the early stages and if the cavity does not cause pain. Another myth is that placing aspirin next to the cavity will ease the pain. This is not true and instead, you may end up burning your gum tissue.
Some people believe that if your teeth are sensitive, this means you have a cavity. This is not always true, because there may be other factors that explain why your teeth are sensitive.
It is a myth that having gaps between your teeth causes cavities. If anything, having gaps between your teeth actually makes it easier to clean your teeth, and hence can reduce the likeliness of tooth decay. Chips and cracks in your teeth, on the other hand, may make it more likely to get tooth decay.
It is not true that sugar is the only thing that causes tooth decay. Rather than sugar itself, it is the acid in your mouth that causes cavities, and this can be triggered by eating food other than sugar, such as carbs. Moreover, while clenching and grinding your teeth is bad, it does not directly cause cavities. Instead, clenching your teeth places pressure on your teeth, which can cause cracks and fractures in your teeth over time. This, as a result, can lead to cavities.
Another myth is that crown spots on your teeth are not always a sign of a cavity. Another piece of misinformation is that fillings last forever. This is incorrect, because while fillings may last a decade, they are not durable enough to last a lifetime.
Can Cavities Cause Cancer?
Oral and Oropharyngeal Cancer
Mouth cancer can occur in your gums, tongue, lips, inner lining of your lips, roof of your mouth, or the floor of your mouth under your tongue.
The risk of oral and oropharyngeal cancer is increased by smoking tobacco; heavy consumption of alcohol; substantial periods of time in the sun, especially sun exposure to your lips; having fair skin; having poor oral hygiene can increase the risk of oral cavity cancer; poor diet; sexually transmitted virus called human papillomavirus (HPV) weak immune system.
Symptoms of mouth cancer include loose teeth; mouth pain; pain when swallowing; a long-term lip or mouth sore; and a white or red patch on the inside of your mouth; a persistent sore throat; unexpected weight loss; ear pain.