What causes cavities? Most people usually wonder this after having one, so hopefully you’re not one of them. But if you are, no worries because this article’s going to dive into what a cavity is, what causes cavities, how to prevent cavities and as an added bonus, how to know if you have cavities.
What Is A Cavity?
Let’s make it simple. A cavity or a dental carie, is a hole in your tooth that will never heal. In a broad sense, a cavity is tooth decay. Cavities are the most common dental issue in the world, with 190 million new cases appearing every year. Virtually everyone will get them, especially because the worst time for cavities is as a child. The worst part is that with tooth enamel (which protects your teeth), once it’s gone, it can’t regenerate. That’s why adults tend to get cavities more than as children. Without enamel, there is no protection for your tooth and prolonged periods without regular oral maintenance can lead to serious tooth decay.
What Causes Cavities?
We know what a cavity is now, so let’s talk about what causes cavities. Cavities are caused by a number of factors, but the process is fairly simple. Your mouth is full of bacteria, which when combined with leftover food, acidic or sugary things and your saliva, combine to form plaque on your teeth. When this plaque is left on your teeth for a period of time, it breaks down the enamel on your teeth and creates cavities.
Some factors that contribute to cavities are:
- poor dental hygiene
- excessive sugary or acidic food/drink intake
- inadequate fluoride usage
- dry mouth
- digestive conditions or eating disorders
How To Prevent Cavities
Let’s talk about how to prevent cavities now, using the list of risk factors from above. See, each one of these factors by themselves might not cause cavities, but those who end up with cavities exhibit more than one of these risk factors. We’ll start out by discussing the best way to prevent cavities, by practicing great dental hygiene.
Practice Great Dental Hygiene
It’s simple and will prevent most dental problems but it’s proven to be harder than people give it credit for. Brushing and flossing your teeth 2-3 times a day reduces the leftover food from your teeth. Again, leftover food and sugar deposits will stick to your teeth and wear away your enamel. Not only that, make sure to get semi-annual dental checkups so your dentist can monitor any problems and help get those hard-to-reach places.
Watch Your Fruit/Coffee Intake
Every dentist you’ve ever had is going to tell you to stop eating sweets and drinking sodas. How often have you heard that you need to cut down on fruit and coffee? The issue with fruit is actually the juice and sugar. While it can be really healthy for you, it’s not for your teeth. It’s like a double whammy. Not only are you acid-washing your teeth, you’re then creating more sugar deposits. With coffee, the issues are the acidity and the discoloration. Coffee is really acid and a really dark liquid, which means it will stain your teeth. Not only that, you don’t even know what chemicals are being put into your coffee, which can cause additional issues.
I’ve got some good news, though. You don’t have to give these up. You just need to watch what you drink, which might be harder than just giving it all up. If you’re going to drink any juice or eat any fruit, limit it. Do one or the other, not both. It’ll make sure you’re limiting your intake. If you want to drink coffee, then have one cup a day. Again, it’s a great way to limit yourself. And if you can’t do either of those, then make sure to brush your teeth soon after so you’re washing off the sugar deposits.
Use Toothpaste & Drink Tap Water
Let’s start with the least confusing part of this advice: use toothpaste. Toothpaste has fluoride in it, which helps reinforce and strengthen your enamel. Not only that, it is vital in helping your enamel resist acid. Without fluoride, you’re on a fast track to tooth decay (read: cavities). Now, why do you need to drink tap water? Well, in case you didn’t know, tap water generally has fluoride in it. Bottled water doesn’t. If you drink lots of bottled or purified water, then you’re likely not getting the fluoride you need. That doesn’t mean you need to eliminate your bottled water supply (although it’s definitely better for the environment!), it just means you need to drink tap water every once in a while.
Keep Your Saliva Flow Strong
Weird, right? In any case, people with dry mouth suffer more cavities because they don’t have the saliva to wash away any leftover food. If you suffer from chronic dry mouth, make sure to see your dentist or doctor and get a prescription.
Monitor Any Digestive Conditions/Eating Disorders
Are you suffering from acid reflux, anorexia or bulimia? These cause people to vomit a lot of stomach acid, which is even worse for your teeth than you might believe. If it’s constantly happening, then you need to visit a doctor or get the help that you need to reduce these chronic conditions.
How Do I Know If I Have Cavities?
Are you here because you want to know if you have cavities? There’s really three big symptoms, but just having one doesn’t mean you have a cavity. It could be another issue or just a temporary issue. If you’re suffering from more than one of these symptoms, then that’s a sign to visit the dentist. Without further ado, here’s some of the most common symptoms of cavities.
Usually this is the way most people know they need to visit the dentist, but with cavities it’s a very common sign. If you have any sudden tooth pain or random pain that doesn’t have a cause, then you might need to get checked out. If you’re also consistently suffering pain in one area when biting down, that might be another sign that you have a cavity. If you’re not sure whether your tooth pain is caused by a cavity or another issue, here’s something we wrote on the 4 most common causes of tooth pain.
Another common symptom is tooth sensitivity. While this can just be a chronic thing for you, if it’s not, you might have a cavity. A big indicator is pain when you’re eating or drinking something hot or cold. Every cavity is an opening to your inner tooth, which has pulp in it and which will respond to overly hot or cold temperature changes.
Discoloration or Visible Holes
The easiest way to know if you have cavities is if you have any visible holes or discoloration of the tooth, whether it’s black, brown or white. If you can visibly see a hole in your tooth or any discoloration, then you need to get a filling ASAP. If you wait too long, you might need a root canal, crown or in some cases, an implant. Don’t hesitate, because the longer that you wait, the more the tooth will hurt and the worse its prognosis will get.
About Dental Emergency Care
Dental Emergency Care is an emergency dental office located in Irving, TX. We offer both emergency dental care and general dental care for all patients. Need to get a cavity filled? We got you covered! Call us at (972) 455-8147 or schedule an appointment now!