Cavities refer to damaged areas on the teeth, which remain permanent and develop into tiny holes or openings. Cavities are also known as tooth decays or caries, and are often caused by a number of factors such as bacteria in the mouth, improper oral hygiene, frequent consumption of sugary drinks and snacks.
Cavities and tooth decays are one of the world’s most frequently occurring health conditions. Cavities are most common in children, teenagers and the elderly. However, anyone, even infants can get cavities as long as they have teeth.
If left untreated, cavities can develop into larger openings, thus affecting deeper layers in your teeth. Cavities can cause severe tooth ache, tooth loss and infections. It is important that you get regular dental checkups and maintain a good oral hygiene with regular flossing and brushing to prevent cavities and tooth decay.
Signs and symptoms
Signs and symptoms of cavities and tooth decay may vary according to the location of the cavity and severity. During the initial stages of a cavity, you may not experience any symptoms. However, your dentist may detect the starting of a decay and advice measures to prevent the cavity from worsening.
As the tooth decay enlarges, you may experience signs and symptoms such as:
- Sensitivity of the tooth
- Visible holes in your teeth
- Mild to sharp toothache while eating or drinking something sugary, cold or hot
- Pain while biting down
- Pus when the gums around the affected tooth are pressed
When to seek medical attention
See your dentist regularly because you may not notice a cavity forming during its initial stages. If you experience symptoms of cavities and tooth decay such as toothaches or sharp pain when you eat or drink, it is important that you see your dentist promptly before the cavity worsens.
If the cavity is treated before you begin to feel any pain, you may not need any extensive treatment measures. To make sure that you treat the problem during its initial stages, it is important that you get regular dental checkups and dental cleanings; even if you feel that your teeth are fine. The damage is only worsening when you begin to experience symptoms.
Treatment for cavities often depends on the severity and the location of the problem. Specific treatment options usually include:
- Fluoride treatments
- Root canals
- tooth extractions for severe decays that cannot be treated
Follow these steps to prevent tooth decay:
- Brush after every meal. Brush at least twice a day and after every meal using fluoride-containing toothpaste. Use floss to clean between your teeth. If you cannot brush after every meal, at least rinse your mouth with water.
- Use mouth rinses containing fluoride if your dentist suspects that you are at risk of developing cavities.
- See your dentist regularly to get professional tooth cleanings and oral exams.
- Use dental sealants as these may prevent cavities in grooves and openings that are susceptible to tooth decay.
- Drink tap water as well as this contains fluoride.
- Eat foods that are tooth-friendly such as cheese, dairy, fruits, vegetables, tea, unsweetened coffee and unsweetened gum.
Avoid having frequent snacks and sugary drinks as these stimulate bacteria to create acids that damage the enamel of your teeth.