Cavities are a problem that nearly everyone gets at least once in their life. No matter how well you take care of your teeth, it’s likely that at some point, you will get a cavity.
In this month’s blog post, we’ll explain what cavities are and how they form. We’ll also tell you how to minimise your risk of cavities and what to do if you think you have one. So, let’s go!
What is a cavity?
A cavity is a small hole in your enamel, which is the outer layer of your teeth. Over time, the hole can get bigger and bigger, eventually causing tooth pain and even an abscess.
What causes cavities?
The cause of cavities is bacteria. Everyone has bacteria in their mouths, and some of these bacteria are good while others are harmful. Problems occur when the harmful bacteria gain a foothold in your mouth and create plaque, which is a sticky, acidic substance. The acid in plaque can dissolve your enamel and that’s what causes a cavity.
What are the risk factors for cavities?
You’re much more likely to get cavities if you have one or more of the following risk factors:
- Poor diet. A diet high in sugar is a major risk factor for cavities. This is because the bad bacteria in your mouth feed on sugar and convert it into acids, which in turn dissolve your teeth. For this reason, it’s important to limit the number of sugary foods you eat during the day. Also, try to avoid highly acidic foods as these can directly dissolve your enamel.
- Poor oral hygiene. It’s important to have a good oral hygiene routine as this is your main defence against cavities. This means brushing twice a day, flossing once a day and seeing a dentist for regular check-ups. It goes without saying that if you fail to maintain an oral hygiene routine then you’ll be at greater risk of cavities.
- Smoking. Smokers have a higher risk of cavities than non-smokers because cigarettes can make your mouth dry, and a dry mouth is a perfect environment for bacteria to grow in.
- Alcohol. Alcohol also increases your risk of cavities for the same reason as smoking – alcohol dries out your mouth, which makes your mouth a more welcoming environment for bacteria.
Do cavities go away on their own?
Some cavities do go away on their own, but only when they’re very small. Most cavities unfortunately do not go away on their own and will require a dentist to fix them.
How are cavities treated?
The treatment depends on the size of the cavity and how far into the tooth it has reached.
- A small cavity might not need a filling; instead, it might be possible to treat it with a fluoride treatment. Your dentist will decide if this could work for you.
- Medium-sized cavities need to be covered with fillings, which are small blobs of resin, porcelain or amalgam.
- Cavities that have reached the tooth’s pulp might require a root canal, which is where the diseased pulp is removed. The good news is that the rest of the tooth can usually be saved.
- The most extreme type of cavity is where the cavity reaches the root. In this case, removal of the tooth is usually necessary.
If you think you have a cavity, then do see a dentist as soon as possible. The earlier you receive treatment, the less invasive the treatment will be. And remember to brush your teeth twice a day, as it’s a very important way to minimise your risk of cavities.