A tooth cavity is formed due to the loss of mineral component from your teeth. As a result, the tooth becomes weak and vulnerable to damage. If this mineral loss is left unchecked, it continues to weaken the tooth structure until a hole forms on the tooth structure, leading to the formation of a cavity. If treatment for cavities is not sought timely, they grow more significant and may cause complications such as sensitivity or pulp inflammation.
How are Cavities Formed?
It all starts with the sugars and carbohydrates which remain adhered to the tooth structure in the form of dental plaque. With time, the plaque hardens to become tartar or calculus, which is the favorite breeding place for harmful bacteria inside the oral cavity which use the sugars on the tooth surface as their food and release acids in the process. The acid directly attacks the mineral prisms in the outer enamel layer of the teeth and result in their destruction and release into the oral cavity. Ultimately, the tooth becomes weak, and cavities start to form.
If this situation is not corrected timely with a filling, the damage extends into the softer dentine layer of the tooth. Here, the damage is even more extensive as the dentine contains lesser minerals, which offer resistance against acid attack. Ultimately, the loss extends into the inner-most layer of the tooth, the dental pulp, which includes the nerves and vessels of the tooth. When this happens, you will start feeling sensitivity to hot or cold foods and drinks. Eventually, the pulp becomes inflamed, causing unbearable pain and discomfort. At this stage, the only option to save the tooth from extraction is to perform a root canal treatment.
What are the Causes of Cavities?
As discussed earlier, the most crucial reason behind the development of cavities is the attachment of carbohydrates and sugars on the teeth which promotes bacterial growth and acid release. The more you eat sugar, the higher the chances of its adherence to the tooth and the higher the chances of acid release. When you take a sugary drink or eat something sweet, your teeth remain vulnerable to damage for the next 20 minutes. Here are some of the common causes of the development of cavities:
• Poor Oral Hygiene Maintenance – when you brush and floss regularly, you remove the sugars and carbohydrates from the tooth surface and minimize chances of acid release. There are high chances of development of cavities when you don’t maintain optimal oral hygiene through brushing and flossing.
• Dry Mouth – this is a condition where there is insufficient salivary flow or secretion. The saliva plays a significant role in preventing cavities by providing a continuous cleansing action. When the salivary flow is decreased, the teeth are not washed properly, thereby increasing the chances of plaque and tartar development, leading to cavities.
• Poor Dietary Choices – just like the digestive system, our teeth love fibrous and healthy foods. A diet rich in sugars and carbohydrates increase the risk for plaque and tartar formation. This is why dentists recommend eating a balanced diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables and essential nutrients that are required to make the teeth strong and resistant to development to cavities.
• Frequent Snacking – research has shown that the frequency of sugar intake is more important in the development of teeth cavities than the quantity. Eating carbohydrate-containing snacks frequently increase the chances of tooth decay. Therefore, you should limit the frequency of sugar intake to prevent cavities.
• Fluorosis – this is a condition in which the teeth are exposed to too much fluoride content, mainly through the community water source. As a result, the teeth become weak and brittle and appear brownish in color. Such teeth are at a higher risk of developing cavities.
• Gastric Problems – patients who have chronic gastric problems often have a higher number of teeth cavities. This is because the acid fumes released from the stomach result in the loss of mineral component from the teeth. Similarly, frequently eating an acidic diet can also have the same effect on the teeth.
• Gum Recession – in case of an underlying gum or periodontal problem, the gums start to recede from their original place and expose a part of the tooth root which is less resistant against acid attack. As a result, cavities begin to form around the exposed root surface.
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Tooth Decay?
Tooth decay may not be visible to the naked eye, at least during the initial stages. In most cases, tooth de-mineralization only becomes apparent when extensive damage has already taken place. Here are some signs which may indicate that one of your teeth has formed cavities:
• Pain on the intake of hot or cold foods and drinks
• Continuous pain
• The appearance of white spots on the tooth surface
• Visible holes on the tooth surface
• Formation of pits
• Black or brown staining of the affected region
It is estimated that more than 2.5 billion people are affected by cavities around the world . Dental cavities not only cause significant pain and discomfort, but they also require the considerable expenditure in terms of restorative treatment or replacement of the lost tooth. The good news is that cavities can be easily prevented through oral hygiene maintenance and regular dental checkup visits. Just follow your dentist’s instructions, and you can say goodbye to cavities.