Tooth Decay & Cavities - The Silent Disease
What Is Tooth Decay?
Tooth decay or cavities are in simple terms a dimineralization process that eats away at the tooth. Cavities are caued by bacteria in our mouth that break down any sugars in our diet into acid, and this acid eats away at the tooth.
This is bad because if the decay gets in close proximity of the tooth nerve, the nerve may have to be treated, or if too much of the tooth is destroyed, more extesnive work like caps or crowns may have required.
If cavities aren't treated early enough, they can lead to more serious problems requiring treatments such as root canal therapy or extractions.
How is tooth decay detected?
Typically detection is a combiation of a visual examiation and dental x-rays. And most often, if decay is visually apparent or on an x-ray, the true extent is always more than that. Cavities do not even appear on x-rays until substantial destruction of the tooth has happepend. This is why regular examations and dental x-rays are necessary to address cavities when small, as opposed to waiting for them to enlarge and require much more extensive treatment.
Do cavities hurt?
Typically, they do not! Sometimes you may experience a bit of cold or sweet sensitivity. However, the vast majority fo the time cavities do not cause any symptoms until the decay has reached the nerve and caused nerve inflammation. At this point, a simple filling will not address the problems at hand, and more extensive treatment like root canal therapy may be needed.
The best defense against cavities is good oral hygiene, including brushing with a fluoride toothpaste, flossing and rinsing. Your body's own saliva is also an excellent cavity fighter, because it contains special chemicals that rinse away many harmful materials. Chewing a good sugarless gum will stimulate saliva production between brushing.
If you have any of the following symptoms, you may have a cavity:
- Unusual sensitivity to hot and cold water or foods.
- A localized pain in your tooth or near the gum line.
- Teeth that change color.
Baby Bottle Tooth Decay
Baby bottle tooth decay is caused by sugary substances in breast milk and some juices, which combine with saliva to form pools inside the baby's mouth.
If left untreated, this can lead to premature decay of your baby's future primary teeth, which can later hamper the proper formation of permanent teeth.
One of the best ways to avoid baby bottle tooth decay is to not allow your baby to nurse on a bottle while going to sleep. Encouraging your toddler to drink from a cup as early as possible will also help stave off the problems associated with baby bottle tooth decay.
Examples of Actual Cavities and Their Treatment