Cavities are one of the most common dental problems a patient may experience. In order to avoid them, it's important to know what cavities are, how they form, and how to prevent them. At Oak Park Dental, our goal is to help you understand your own oral health so that preventive care can be central to your dental routine. It's much cheaper and easier to avoid dental problems than to treat them afterward. Our dedication to helping our patients achieve and maintain a high level of dental health is why many consider us the best dentist in Madison.
What is a cavity?
A cavity is tooth decay caused by specific types of bacteria. This bacteria produces acid that can destroy multiple layers of your teeth. First the acid destroys the enamel on your teeth, and, if left untreated, the acid will move deeper, eventually destroying the dentin. A cavity may not cause pain at first, but if left untreated you may eventually experience severe tooth pain. Even though a lot of people are aware of the basic risks of cavities, cavities are a widespread problem. In fact, the American Dental Association estimates that more than one in five Americans currently have untreated cavities in their mouth.
How do cavities form?
Cavities start with sugar. When bacteria in your mouth interacts with sugars or fermentable carbohydrates, it produces more acid than usual, which causes demineralization. As your teeth become demineralized, they lose important protective calcium and phosphate in the enamel. Decay starts to occur, and the more one area of your tooth erodes, the more likely it is to gather additional bacteria and erode more quickly. If left untreated, the decay continues to grow. You may end up with cracked or chipped teeth if you don't address existing cavities. And if cavities are left to progress, you'll find that you have a toothache, pain when eating, and an increased sensitivity to hot or cold food or drink.
How can I prevent cavities?
The first step to cavity prevention is to avoid sugary beverages and food. If you do consume sugar, try to do it with your meals instead of between meals. Also, try to eat foods that are calcium-rich, as they keep bacteria levels down. A sugar-free gum with xylitol can reduce the amount of natural bacteria in your mouth. Maintain a regular brushing and flossing routine, and use mouthwash to control bacteria. If your water isn't fluoridated, add fluoride treatments to your dental visits. It's also a good idea to use a fluoride toothpaste approved by the American Dental Association. During a dentist appointment, sealants may also be placed on some of your teeth for added protection. Finally, don't forget to regularly see your dentist for a cleaning and early cavity detection. We recommend that you make an appointment every six months.
How are cavities treated?
Once you've gotten a cavity, it is important to get it treated right away. A good dentist is essential to save decaying teeth. Some of the restorative methods available are fillings, pulp capping, and root canals. A filling will be sufficient if the decay hasn't penetrated too deeply. During a filling, the decay will be removed from your teeth and a composite resin will be used to fill the gap. The resin will harden and be polished to look like your natural teeth. If the decay is deep, a root canal or pulp capping may be necessary. Our team will work with you to find the least invasive care that will restore your smile.
Don't forget that when it comes to cavities, prevention is always better and easier than treatment. Be aware of what you can do to reduce your risk of cavities, and make regular appointments with us. We're excited to help you maintain a smile that will give you confidence and keep you healthy.