Tooth decay is one of the most common health problems in the world. It’s especially common in children, teenagers and older adults. But anyone who has teeth can get cavities, including infants. If cavities aren’t treated, they get larger and affect deeper layers of your teeth. They can lead to a severe toothache, infection and tooth loss. Regular dental visits and good brushing and flossing habits are your best protection against cavities and the causes of tooth decay.
What is tooth decay?
Tooth decay is the destruction of your tooth enamel, the hard, protective coating on the outside of your teeth. Decay happens when plaque, a sticky film of bacteria, forms on your teeth and produces acids that eat away at your enamel.
What causes tooth decay?
There are many things that can cause tooth decay. Here are some of the most common:
- Not brushing your teeth regularly
- Eating sugary or starchy foods
- Drinking sugary beverages, like soda
- Not flossing your teeth
- Dry mouth
How can I prevent tooth decay?
The best way to prevent tooth decay is to practice good oral hygiene. This means brushing your teeth twice a day, flossing daily, and visiting your dentist regularly for professional cleanings and checkups. Eat a balanced diet and limit sugary snacks and drinks. And if you have dry mouth, talk to your dentist about treatments that can help.
Fluoride is also important for preventing tooth decay. Fluoride is a natural mineral that helps make teeth more resistant to acid attacks. It can be found in many foods and beverages, as well as in some brands of toothpaste and mouthwash. Talk to your dentist about whether fluoride treatments might be right for you or your child.
What are some symptoms of cavities?
Cavities often don’t cause symptoms in the early stages. But as they get larger, you may experience:
- Sensitivity to hot, cold or sweet foods
- Visible holes or pits in your teeth
- Staining or discoloration of your teeth
- Pain when you bite down
If you think you may have a cavity, schedule an appointment with your dentist. They can diagnose the problem and develop a treatment plan to restore your smile. Left untreated, tooth decay can lead to serious health problems. So don’t wait to get help. Talk to your dentist today about how you can protect your teeth from decay.
How does a dentist diagnose tooth decay?
To diagnose tooth decay, your dentist will do a visual exam of your mouth and use dental instruments to feel for areas of damage. They may also take X-rays to get a closer look at the condition of your teeth and see if any decay has reached the inner layers. Once they’ve diagnosed the problem, they can develop a treatment plan to restore your smile.
What are common treatments?
The treatment for tooth decay will depend on the severity of the problem. In the early stages, a fluoride treatment may be all that’s needed to help repair your tooth enamel and prevent further damage. If the decay is more advanced, your dentist may need to do a dental filling or crown to restore your tooth. In severe cases, a root canal procedure may be necessary, or worse, an extraction.
No matter what stage of decay you’re in, it’s important to get treatment as soon as possible. The sooner you get help, the less damage will be done to your teeth and the easier the treatment will be.
Cavities and tooth decay are common problems, but they’re also preventable. Practice good oral hygiene habits and visit your dentist regularly to help keep your teeth healthy and strong. And if you think you may have a cavity, don’t wait to get it checked out. The sooner you get treatment, the better.