Most adults can confidently say that they have had at least one cavity. Sometimes, cavities happen. Unfortunately, because they sometimes do not initially hurt or present with any major sensitivity, cavities can often be overlooked until they become more severe.
A small hole in the tooth indicates decay. A cavity cannot heal on its own and requires medical intervention. A cavity is often caused by a bacteria-ridden plaque affixed to the teeth. These bacteria create an acid that deteriorates the teeth and eventually causes a cavity.
It would help if you treated a cavity as soon as possible. If left untreated, a cavity will increase in size resulting in permanent damage to the tooth. Every tooth has three lines of defense: the enamel, the dentin, and the pulp. With a cavity, the enamel is the first part of the tooth that is affected. Acting as the tooth’s protective layer, the enamel does what it can to protect the sensitive inner layers of the teeth from damage.
If a cavity is not found quickly enough, it will penetrate the tooth’s enamel and enter the second layer of the tooth, the dentin layer. This will result in more pain and more damage to the tooth. Finally, the bacteria will reach the pulp if the cavity is still not treated.
The tooth’s pulp is the innermost layer and contains all of the tooth’s blood vessels and nerves. Once the cavity reaches the pulp, a filling may not be enough to fix the damage. A cavity often leads to tooth extraction or a root canal at this stage.
Damage to the teeth aside, waiting to treat a cavity can result in great pain. When a cavity first begins to form, there is little pain. When dental patients come in for regular cleanings and check-ups, their dentist finds a small cavity and fills it on the spot. This is the ideal situation concerning finding and treating cavities.
If caught early, there is no concerning damage to the tooth, and the treatment is not as costly as required if a cavity is left untreated. According to research, around 28% of adults are currently walking around with untreated cavities noting the cost and having to get a filling as reasons for avoiding appointments with their dentist. Unfortunately, the longer a cavity is put off, the more severe the symptoms and the costlier treatment becomes.
Once a cavity reaches the pulp, pain is inevitable, not just in the tooth but in the face. Facial swelling and potential jaw or blood infections can occur and result in needing emergent care that will likely end with the tooth being extracted.
As the saying goes, prevention is the best medicine. Proper oral hygiene and a tooth-healthy diet are essential to ensure that your mouth remains cavity-free. It is important to maintain a twice-daily brushing and flossing routine. Further, regular dental cleanings and check-ups can help not only prevent cavities but can catch any cavities before they become problematic.
Your dentist can also apply a dental sealant to your teeth to help protect your teeth against cavities. A dental sealant is a protective coating made of plastic placed on the chewing surfaces of the back molars and can last for years.
Finally, a tooth-healthy diet is imperative as cavity-causing bacteria feed off of sugary and starchy foods. Reducing sugary drinks and sweets, ensuring that you drink adequate water daily, and incorporating more fruits and vegetables into your diet can help ward off cavities.
If it has been a while since you visited your local dentist for a check-up, make an appointment as soon as possible so that you can catch any cavities before they progress. If you have any tooth pain or sensitivity, it is important to see your dentist as quickly as possible because it is likely that a cavity has already started to increase in size.
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