What is a Cavity?
“Cavity” is a word used for tooth decay. There are several factors that determine if a person is susceptible to tooth decay or not and heredity is only one of them. Whether or not you have cavities is determined largely by lifestyle, oral hygiene habits, your diet and whether you have fluoride in your water and toothpaste.
Who is at risk for getting a cavity?
Children are most likely to have a cavity, but adults can develop them as well. Adults can be more at risk if they suffer from conditions like dry mouth which means there is a lack of saliva. A person can have dry mouth due to a variety of reasons such as an illness, radiation or chemotherapy, and medications they take.
It can be a temporary condition or a permanent one depending on what caused it. A cavity is serious and if it is not treated it can destroy the tooth and kill the nerves in the tooth. If this happens, it can become infected or abscessed. If it becomes abscessed, it will need to be treated by extraction or a root canal.
What are the different types of cavities?
There are three basic types of cavities which include:
- Coronal Cavity: This is the most common type of cavity and both adults and children can get them. These are located on the chewing surface of the teeth, or between two teeth.
- Root Cavity: Adults are more likely to have root cavities since they occur on exposed areas of the root of a tooth. This occurs as we age and the gums recede leaving portions of the root exposed.
- Recurrent Decay: This type of decay forms around crowns and fillings. These areas tend to be where plaque accumulates and this can lead to tooth decay or a cavity.
How can a cavity be prevented?
There are some oral hygiene habits that can greatly reduce the likelihood of developing a cavity. Brushing at least two times a day and flossing once daily can help remove plaque. Also, use dental products which contain fluoride which can help keep your teeth strong. Preventive care can also help keep cavities from occurring or detect problem areas early on so they are easily treated. This means having regular checkups with your dentist. And finally, eat a healthy diet which is not laden with sugary and starchy foods.
Will I know if I have cavities?
You dentist can tell for sure if you have a cavity. Sometimes they develop under the surface of a tooth where they are not visible to you. When you eat foods that contain starch and sugar, the bacteria in plaque feeds on them which produces acids that then erode the surface of the tooth. Over time, the enamel will start to break down even though the tooth “looks” fine. Once enough of the enamel has been eroded, the surface of the tooth will collapse and form a cavity. Most cavities form in the small pits on the tooth’s chewing surface, in between teeth or down near the gum-line. No matter where they occur, they should be treated before they become too serious. Regular checkups can help prevent serious cavities from occurring.