What’s A Cavity and What Are The Treatments?
What causes cavities (tooth decay)?
We all love our delicious foods, but so do the bacteria living in our mouths. As the bacterial consumes the “leftover food” stuck in between our teeth, it produces acids that eat away the enamel, the outer protective layer of the tooth. Once the enamel is weakened by these acids, tooth decays occur leaving holes on the tooth called cavities. Eventually these holes can grow larger and consume the whole tooth leaving you in agony.
How to prevent cavities.
It goes without saying that sugary foods and drinks such as candy and soda provide a lot of sugar to consume for the bacteria, as well as foods that contain carbohydrate including milk, cereal and bread. Since we can’t kill all the bacteria in the mouth or stop feeding them, we have to reduce the amount of sugars and starches in our diet. Start eating high-fiber foods that keep your saliva flowing, thus increasing the minerals shielding against tooth decay. Vegetables and fresh fruits, like bananas, apples and oranges are great source of fibers. Beans, brussels sprouts and peas, along with peanuts, almonds and bran also contain a lot of fiber.
How do I know if I have a cavity?
Early stages of cavities develop below the tooth’s surface which you can’t see by yourself. A dentist, however, is able to find a cavity by using a sharp instrument to feel tooth structure that has been damaged by tooth decay. Sometimes cavities form between the teeth, in which case it may only be detected with an X-ray.
Only when the surface collapse can you see the cavity and, of course, it would be too late. If you have the following symptoms, don’t ignore it and visit your dentist as early as possible.
- Consistent toothache
- Sensitivity to hot and cold foods and liquids
- Swelling or redness of the gums
- Noticeable holes or pits on teeth
Treatments (Fillings and Crowns)
If the decay has developed holes in your teeth, it’s recommended for you to have a filling. Before starting the filling, your dentist will numb your teeth, gums and surrounding skin to reduce pain and discomfort during the procedure. Then the decayed portion of the tooth will be removed, and the holes will be filled with a liquid that hardens. Fillings used to be made of metal. Now they are made of composite material that to look just like your own tooth.
If the decay is too severe (not much tooth left) to repair with a filling, a dental crown is needed. Crowns replace the entire top part of the tooth. They are usually made from porcelain, metal or a combination of porcelain and metal. If the cavity has reached the center of the tooth and infected the nerve, a root canal will have to be performed. Sometimes, the cavity infects a majority of the tooth surface and the tooth will have to be extracted.