Do you feel a shooting pain when you bite into something chewy or extreme sensitivity when you drink hot or cold beverages? If so, you may have a cavity, and it’s not going to get better on its own. Here’s what you should know about cavities and why it’s necessary to make a dental appointment to treat a cavity as soon as possible.
What Causes Cavities and Who is Likely to Get Them?
When you eat or drink sugary and starchy foods and beverages, the bacteria in your mouth will break down those substances and form a sticky film called plaque.1 If you don’t brush away the plaque, it creates acidity that causes decay and creates tiny holes in your teeth called cavities.2
The areas in your mouth that are most susceptible to plaque formation are the back teeth, containing many pits and grooves that hold onto food particles. Because they have so many nooks and crannies, they’re more difficult to clean than teeth with smoother surfaces. However, it’s also possible for cavities to form between teeth and near the gum line. Sometimes a dentist will apply sealants to molars to help prevent cavities in the nooks and crannies, but sealants don’t protect the whole tooth and you will still need to brush and floss your teeth twice daily.
Cavities are the most common chronic disease of children and adolescents aged 6 to 19.3 But studies have shown a high prevalence of tooth decay in adults as well. According to a recent Oral Health Surveillance Report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the percentage of adults with untreated decayed or filled cavities in permanent teeth are as follows: 4
- 20-34 years = 82%
- 35-49 years = 93%
- 50-64 years = 96%
Besides Tooth Pain, What are Some Other Early Signs You May Have a Cavity?
It’s possible to have a cavity even if you’re not experiencing any pain, but it’s more likely that a cavity will cause some discomfort as well as other signs and symptoms, including:
- Staining on the tooth’s surface
- A hole or pit in your tooth
- Bad breath
What Can Happen if You Don’t Treat a Cavity?
If you notice signs that you may have a cavity, make an appointment with your dentist right away. Untreated cavities can lead to:5
- Chewing problems
- Broken teeth
- Tooth loss
- Tooth abscess – a bacterial infection that may be life-threatening
- Facial swelling
How Does a Dentist Treat a Cavity?
The good news is that a dentist can prevent a cavity from causing further damage if caught early. Although many people put off seeing a dentist because it makes them feel anxious, modern dental practices have found ways to make their patients feel comfortable during the examination.
If your dentist does discover one or more cavities during your visit, the treatment she recommends will depend on the severity of the decay:
- Filling – For most cavities, the dentist will remove the decay and fill the hole with a resin that matches the natural color of your tooth. The filling helps reconstruct your tooth so that it functions correctly and protects it from further decay.
- Crown – If the decay is more extreme and the tooth structure is damaged, there’s a risk that the tooth will break. After the dentist removes the decay, she’ll place a crown over what remains of the tooth to restore its structure and function.
- Root Canal Treatment – If bacteria has entered the tooth’s root, the dentist will perform a root canal treatment, which is simply a way to clean the canals inside the tooth’s pulp. For too long, many have made the root canal sound like a scary procedure. But advanced techniques and local anesthesia allow patients to remain completely comfortable during the treatment. Once the root is cleaned, the dentist will fill it with a sealing material and cap the area with a crown.
- Extraction – If the dentist cannot safely do any of the other procedures, the dentist will recommend that the tooth be removed. Because any gaps in the jawline can cause teeth to shift, the dentist will offer options to fill the space with either a bridge or a dental implant.
Gentle Dentistry to Treat Your Cavity
If you think you have a cavity, don’t wait too long to have it treated. Prevent further pain and damage by visiting a dental practice that has earned a reputation for progressive techniques and patient comfort. Dr. Tehila Cohen and her staff provide excellent care in a warm and nurturing environment in the Webster area. Contact us today to get more information and to make an appointment. You’ll be so relieved once your tooth is restored, and you don’t have to worry about further health issues that can stem from a decayed tooth. (585) 671-1650