Cavities can best be described as holes in your teeth that are usually caused by tooth decay.  As we all know, tooth decay is influenced by what we eat, how we take care of our teeth, and the amount of fluoride in our toothpaste.  If your family has a history of tooth disease or teeth problems you may be susceptible to inheriting them.  Passing tooth problems down from generation to generation are not uncommon.

The key to the treatment of cavities is ultimately through preventing them from forming at all. Aside from maintaining regular routine visits with your dentist, there are several techniques that are crucial to the prevention of cavity development, starting with what you eat. Eating a lot of sweets and/or drinking sodas place you at a higher risk for cavity development.  Foods that are rich in sugar or starch are a favored food source for bacteria that thrive in plaque.  These bacteria produce acids that dissolve the enamel and dentin of teeth, eventually leading to more serious complications that will result in the need of a root canal and ultimately an extraction.  Consuming alternative foods such as apples and celery are not only good for your overall health but can actually reduce risk of cavity development, as they help to break away unwanted plaque and food debris.

Brushing and flossing after meals is one of the most recommended techniques in reducing cavity development, however many dentists will acknowledge that there are times when brushing and flossing are simply not feasible, such as during work or school.  When more thorough alternatives are not available or practical a step as simple as swishing a mouthful of water in your mouth after meals can greatly improve your chances of cavity reduction. Chewing sugar-free gum is yet another simple alternative method in removing plaque and unwanted food debris.

Another key contributor to cavity development is dry mouth.  While many may not realize it, saliva is incredibly significant in maintaining oral health and one of its central functions is cavity prevention.  Dry mouth is very common and is normally the result of medications, illness and/or radiation treatment.  Those who use tobacco products are especially prone to developing symptoms of dry mouth.  Using specialized oral products that aim to alleviate symptoms will help reduce cavity risk; however the most effective method is to limit provoking contributors to the best of your ability.

Visiting your dentist is the most effective measure in diagnosis of a cavity, however there several clues that can alert the presence of a cavity.  If a cavity develops it can change the color of the affected area.  If you notice a color change such as a blackened or whitened area in your tooth, or develop sensitivity to temperature changes such as when drinking ice water or hot tea or notice sensitivity to sweets you should make an appointment with your dentist immediately.

If left untreated the enamel of the tooth will start to degrade. After that the dentin and ultimately the pulp will be affected.  Once damaging acid has managed to eat away enough of the enamel below the surface, the surface will collapse, resulting in a cavity.  Without proper treatment the tooth will continue to degrade and the cavity will continue to spread until the entire tooth has been eaten away, diminishing protective enamel and exposing the tooth root – which can be very painful.

If you visit your dentist on a regular basis he/she can find cavities and fill them (usually) before they are too severe.  However, if left untreated cavities can become more serious and lead to an abscess.  An abscess infects the entire tooth down to the root tip and if left untreated can ultimately be fatal.  Leaving a cavity alone is damaging to both your health and your personal expense pocket, as the resulting root canal and crown to repair an abscess will cost much more than the initial cavity filling would have been.  Furthermore, if the tooth needs an extraction, the replacement cost will even further exceed the cost of the original filling.

Cavities can develop in the pits of chewing areas around the back teeth, between your teeth, or near the gum line, however no matter where they occur the easiest way to spot them is to visit your dentist.  Your dentist will be able to perform simple x-rays to diagnose the presence and severity of cavities and offer the most efficient treatment plan.  If caught in time the repair to the cavity will be minimally invasive and will prevent the further destruction of the affected tooth.

The early detection of cavities is crucial to the overall prognosis of your teeth; however the best treatment plan is to prevent cavities from forming all together.  Proper oral hygiene such as routine brushing and flossing are imperative to the prevention of cavities, and while there are several techniques to prevent cavities from forming in between dental visits, nothing can replace a routine check-up from your dentist.  Maintaining regular visits with your dentist is crucial in lowering cavity risk, and may lead to lower expenses to both your wallet and your health.


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