Everything You Need to Know about Cavities

Cavities are a lot more common than you might think. According to the Canadian Dental Association, nearly 100% of adults worldwide have tooth decay! Plus, oral health isn’t an isolated thing; it’s connected to other aspects of your overall physical health and can actually impact your organ function if severe oral conditions are left untreated for too long.

So what can you do to maintain good oral health and prevent cavities from developing? The best course of action is to educate yourself on what cavities are, what causes them, what symptoms to look out for, and what preventive measures you can take to avoid getting them.

What Are Cavities?

Cavities, which are also referred to as dental caries, are small holes that form inside your teeth. Everyone is prone to getting at least one or two cavities in their lives regardless of how strict their oral hygiene routine is. This is because no matter what, you have to eat and drink in order to survive and cavities are typically caused by excess food, sugar, and carbohydrate deposits that linger between your teeth and in your gums.

Since most people don’t brush or floss their teeth in between every single meal throughout the day, getting at least one cavity is almost inevitable. And the chances of developing a cavity is even higher for people who tend to snack in between meals because you’re consuming even more food that could potentially get stuck between your teeth for the rest of the day until you brush and floss in the evening.

If you’re going to snack in between meals, it’s best to choose raw fruits and vegetables instead of candy, chips, or chocolate because they naturally help scrub away stuck on foods from your teeth.

Types of Cavities

There are three types of cavities that you should know about: smooth surface, pit and fissure, and root cavities. The type of treatment required depends on the type of dental cavity you have. Your dentist should be able to identify the type of cavity you have and recommend the right treatment option for it.

Smooth Surface Cavities

As the name suggests, this type of cavity develops on the smooth outer surface of the tooth. Harmful bacteria eat away at the tooth enamel, which may cause discomfort, sensitivity, and in severe cases, pain. With this type of cavity, it’s common to see small white spots on the surface of the tooth where the enamel is weakened. Compromised or weakened enamel increases the chances of internal tooth decay. Premolars and back molars, which are used for chewing food and are located all the way at the back of the mouth, are typically the most prone to developing cavities. Part of the reason is that food particles are more likely to become lodged between those teeth and the other part is because they’re difficult to manually clean at home. Most standard toothbrushes don’t reach far enough to properly clean the back molars and flossing between them is very difficult for a lot of people. The smooth surfaces between the teeth is where the most cavities form when these back teeth are not flossed regularly.

Pit and Fissure Cavities

The pits and fissures are the small grooves on the biting surfaces of your molars and premolars that facilitate chewing food. It can be difficult to cleanse these pits and fissures and then cavities develop. Scheduling regular dental cleanings is the best way to keep your molars clean and prevent cavities from forming, so that you can continue to chew your food comfortably.

Root Cavities

Also known as root caries and root decay, root cavities develop on the root surface of the tooth right below or under the gum line. Typically, root cavities are only visible if your gum line has receded, which is another indicator that your oral health is suffering. Both are symptoms of moderate or advanced periodontitis (gum disease).

What Causes Cavities and How Are They Formed?

Cavities can develop as a result of poor oral hygiene, as a symptom of a physical illness or condition, as a side effect of a medication or treatment, from improper brushing or flossing, from neglecting to schedule regular dental cleanings, and so forth.

A dry mouth and the release of stomach acids are often side effects or symptoms of certain medications and illnesses. The lack of saliva combined with rising stomach acids into the oral cavity can dry out the mouth and erode the tooth enamel to the point of causing tooth decay. People who suffer from dry mouth should do their best to stay hydrated throughout the day and avoid mouth breathing as much as possible so as not to exacerbate the condition.

How Are Cavities Treated?

Early Stage CavitiesFluoride treatment and lifestyle changesFluoride treatment is brushed onto your teeth to reverse the cavity formation.
Moderate CavityDental fillingsRestoration material is used to fill the area where the cavity was removed.
Advanced Cavity (Root Involvement)Root canal therapyThe decayed pulp within a tooth is removed and replaced with a filling. 
Advanced Cavity (Extensive Damage)Dental crownThe decayed or weakened tooth is covered with a crown to protect it from further damage. 
Severe CaseTooth extractionRequired when a tooth becomes extremely decayed and therefore unrestorable.

Common FAQs Asked About Dental Cavities

How do I know if I have a cavity?

While visiting the dentist twice a year can uncover the potential signs of a cavity, there are basic symptoms to be aware of. Sensitivities to hot and cold temperatures, dark shadows on the tooth’s surface or along the gumline and pain can be the clear signs of a cavity forming. 

Is it painful to get a cavity filled?

No, having a cavity filled is not painful as dentists offer numbing agents to prevent any discomfort for the patient. 

What happens if I leave a cavity untreated?

A cavity left untreated can get larger and affect the remainder of the tooth. Typically, cavities widen and deepen as they develop. Cavities can also spread to other teeth and cause the tooth to become brittle and crack. 

Is it possible to heal a cavity?

Actually, yes, if the cavity is in the early stages, it may be reversed. Professional fluoride treatments may help to stop the development and restore the tooth’s enamel. 

Can cavities be prevented?

Yes, knowing how to prevent dental cavities means you can enjoy a lifetime of healthy teeth. Follow a good oral hygiene plan by brushing your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, flossing daily, rinsing with mouthwash, and visiting your dentist at least once every six months. Limiting sugar consumption and eating a healthy diet can also help prevent cavities. 

Are dental fillings permanent?

No, while fillings are durable, they are not permanent and may need replacing in a few years.

Can children get cavities?

Yes, children of all ages can get cavities. As cavities form faster in baby teeth, it is important to schedule regular dental checkups starting when the first teeth erupt, usually between six to 12 months of age. 

Are there any natural remedies for cavities?

Unfortunately, there are no natural remedies for cavities. The only way to treat cavities is by getting professional dental treatment and fillings. 

How can I make my dental fillings last longer?

Extend the life of your dental fillings by avoiding sugary and sticky foods, hard candies and nuts, and tobacco products. Follow a diet that protects bone health, and make sure to maintain good oral hygiene by brushing twice a day, flossing daily, and scheduling regular dental visits. 

How much does it cost to treat a cavity?

The cost can vary depending on the dentist’s office and the filling material chosen and the size of the filling required. The average cavity treatment can range between $170 and $450 per tooth.

Does dental insurance cover cavity treatment?

While most private dental insurance plans will cover a partial sum of the cavity treatment, it is rare to have the full cost covered. It’s important to check your individual or family dental insurance plan for the costs you are responsible for. 

Are there affordable options for cavity treatment for those without insurance?

Talk to your local dentist about the availability of payment plans for dental services. 

For more information and great tips to maintain your oral health, contact Princeview Dental Group in Etobicoke. Our professional and compassionate dental staff is here to take care of all of your oral health needs!

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