A cavity, or tooth decay, is a hole in your teeth that can cause pain and other dental problems if left untreated. But how do you stop a cavity from forming, growing, and becoming something unmanageable? There are ways to prevent a cavity from forming in the first place and many treatments for existing cavities, including fillings, crowns, and root canals.
What is a cavity?
A cavity, also called tooth decay, is a common dental problem where a hole develops in your teeth and causes pain. They can also create additional dental problems if left untreated.
Cavities typically develop due to poor oral hygiene habits and grow when bacteria continue to build on the tooth’s surface, forming a sticky layer called plaque. When the acid-generating bacteria forms, it will attack the tooth enamel, cause a tiny hole in the tooth, and then decay begins to occur. If not treated, the cavity will eat away at the tooth and eventually hit the blood vessels and nerves.
Preventing Cavities and Tooth Decay
Good overall oral hygiene is the first step in preventing cavities altogether. It is essential to:
- Brush Your Teeth: Brush teeth twice daily with fluoride toothpaste to keep food particles and plaque at bay.
- Floss Your Teeth: Floss at least once per day or use an interdental cleaner (such as a water pick) to remove remaining food particles between teeth after brushing.
- See Your Dentist: Visit your dentist regularly for a dental check-up, cleanings to remove dental plaque, and fluoride treatments. Dental visits are recommended at least every six months.
Proper Dental Health
Proper oral hygiene like brushing and flossing can help clean chewing surfaces and prevent cavities early on.
If you are not sure how to brush your teeth properly, the American Dental Association (ADA) has developed these simple steps:
- Use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste on your toothbrush.
- Hold the toothbrush against your teeth and brush the bristles against the gum line using circular motions.
- Use short circular strokes to brush the front, top, bottom, and back of your teeth’s surfaces.
- Spit out the toothpaste after brushing.
- Rinse your mouth and toothbrush with water.
If you are not sure how to properly floss your teeth, the ADA has also created these flossing steps to follow:
- Cut an 18-inch piece of waxed nylon thread dental floss.
- Wrap one end of the floss around the middle finger of one hand, leaving about two inches of slack.
- Hold the other end tightly between your thumb and your first finger on that hand.
- Gently guide the floss between all of your teeth using a back and forth motion while keeping it against the gum line.
- Curl the floss around each tooth and use a gentle up-and-down motion to remove plaque and debris.
- Spit after you finish cleaning your teeth.
- Rinse your mouth with water.
- If you have trouble reaching all of your teeth, you can also try using an interdental cleaner such as a water pick.
How do I know if I have a cavity?
The only way to know for sure if you have a cavity is to visit your dentist for a check-up. However, there are some common symptoms of cavities that you can look out for, including:
- Pain or sensitivity when biting down or chewing on food.
- A sour taste in your mouth.
- Brown or black spots on the teeth are not cavities yet but may turn into one if they aren’t taken care of.
If you notice any of these symptoms, it is essential to contact your dentist as soon as possible so that they can examine your teeth and determine whether there is a cavity present.
How do I stop a cavity from growing?
If you have a cavity and want to keep it from worsening, here are some quick tips for preserving your oral health.
- Avoid sugary foods.
- Don’t consume sugary beverages if you have a cavity.
- Avoid refined sugar and prevent bacteria from building on the teeth.
- Chew Xylitol gum after meals which contains natural alcohol that helps destroy bacteria and prevents the cavity from worsening.
- Try saltwater rinses to help eliminate bacteria. Saltwater has antiseptic properties, typically used for wounds or infections in the mouth.
- Keep your mouth moist to slow down the progression of a cavity. An overly dry mouth can allow an overabundance of bacteria which causes cavities.
- Oral health professionals offer fluoride treatment during a regular dental visit. Fluoride remineralizes enamel to make them solid and fortified. Such fortified teeth can combat cavities more easily. Talk to your dentist about getting a fluoride treatment at your next visit.
How are cavities treated?
If you have a cavity that needs treatment, several options are available, including a filling, crown, or root canal, depending on the severity of the tooth’s decay.
- Fillings are the most common treatment and involve the dentist putting a composite material into the hole in your tooth to restore its shape and function.
- Crowns (caps) are another option that covers your affected tooth’s entire surface with porcelain or metal, so it doesn’t decay further.
- A root canal removes dead tissues inside teeth that cavities have damaged.
The most important thing is to stop cavities before they get worse, so make sure you brush twice a day for two minutes with fluoridated toothpaste and floss once per day to remove food particles between teeth that lead to plaque buildup. Also, carrying some Xylitol gum around to chew on after meals can help lessen the opportunity for cavities to form and destroy bacteria in the early stages.
Schedule Your Appointment
Our dentist’s office in Manchester, NH, is here to help prevent cavities and improve your oral health. Our team of professionals can help answer any of your dental questions and set an appointment to see Dr. Mann as soon as possible. Give our dental team a call at 603-836-9171, or visit our website today to schedule your appointment!