Does it seem like you have a cavity every time you go to a checkup at your dentist? If so, you’re not alone.
Cavities are one of the most common chronic diseases across all age brackets, and at least four of five Americans experience a cavity by their mid-30s.
Dental hygiene, family history, and diet can play a role in whether someone is more prone to cavities than others. And fortunately, you can help prevent chronic tooth decay and cavities by taking proactive steps in your daily routine. Below, South Charlotte Dentistry explains cavities in more detail and provides some simple tips for managing them.
What Is a Cavity?
A cavity is a severe form of tooth decay. Decay occurs when acid-producing bacteria called plaque wear down a tooth’s enamel. Plaque builds up along the gum line and on the surface of a tooth over time. It accumulates more quickly and regularly when you consume foods and drinks high in sugar and simple carbohydrates because the bacteria feed off the sugar, producing acids.
This acid deteriorates your enamel, and if left untreated, it can cause a cavity (a hole in the tooth). In many cases, cavities form in hard-to-reach areas, including:
• Between teeth
• On the surface of molars
• Along the gumline
• Around dental treatments like fillings and bridges
It’s essential to treat a cavity as soon as you identify it. Otherwise, the decay can extend to the tooth’s pulp, the inner layer that holds the blood supply and nerves. The decay can also spread to surrounding teeth. Over time, the damage can cause sensitive teeth, gum disease, infection, and tooth loss.
Are There Different Types of Cavities?
Some cavities take up to three years to develop in the enamel. Once the enamel erodes, the decay typically progresses quickly through the middle layer (dentin) and the pulp. Here are a few types of cavities, from the most to least severe:
Root decay is common in older adults with receding gums. Recession leaves a tooth’s root exposed to plaque and acid, at which point it can be challenging to treat and prevent decay.
Pit and Fissure Decay
Tooth decay can set in on the front side of the back teeth, known as pit and fissure decay. This type of cavity progresses quickly and is most common among teenagers.
Smooth surface cavities grow very slowly and gradually erode tooth enamel. They are prevalent among 20-something adults who experience decay between their teeth. With adequate dental care (e.g., professional cleaning, brushing, flossing, etc.), you can prevent (and maybe even reverse) these cavities.
Are Chronic Cavities Genetic?
Various controllable factors, such as overeating sugar and neglecting oral hygiene, can cause cavities. But research shows that genetics can also influence the appearance and health of your teeth. There are a few hereditary factors to consider.
For example, genes primarily determine your enamel structure. The strength or weakness of your enamel surface dictates how well it can absorb calcium, fluoride, and other essential minerals. Also, your specific saliva plays a role in how much harmful bacteria remains in your mouth on any given day.
Moreover, the shape of your teeth can make you more or less susceptible to cavities. It can be challenging to brush and floss effectively when you have crowded teeth. And when teeth have more grooves, bacteria have more places to hide.
How Do You Catch the Signs?
Cavities are not always easy to see. But there are a few common symptoms to help you identify them:
• Pain in your tooth or mouth
• Increased tooth sensitivity to extreme temperatures in foods or beverages
• Swelling in your gums or face
• Bleeding gums
• Redness in your mouth
• Bad breath
How to Be Proactive
Whether or not you have a hereditary predisposition to tooth decay and cavities, there are plenty of steps to take that will help you prevent issues in the future.
The most critical step is to follow a regular oral hygiene routine every day.
This includes brushing your teeth twice a day for two minutes, ensuring you get between your teeth and in the hard-to-reach areas in the back of your mouth. Also, be sure to floss once a day and use fluoride toothpaste, which can help strengthen your tooth enamel.
You will also want to limit foods and drinks high in refined and simple sugars. And try to incorporate more vitamins, minerals, calcium, and fiber into your diet through apples, leafy greens, carrots, cheese, and yogurt.
Another great way to keep cavities at bay is to visit your family dentist every six months for a checkup and cleaning. Contact South Charlotte Dentistry today to schedule your appointment!