Cavities are a problem that affect the enamel, which is the hard, outer layer of your teeth. Along with gum disease, it’s one of the most common dental problems, especially among older patients.
How do dental cavities occur?
Your teeth are covered with an invisible layer of plaque, which is made up of bacteria and tiny bits of food from the meals you’ve eaten. This plaque forms just twenty minutes after you’ve eaten.
If you don’t clean off the plaque by brushing and flossing, then the bacteria that make up the plaque will take the sugar and starch from the foods you’ve eaten and convert it into acid. This acid will attack your enamel by demineralising your teeth, and eventually, you’ll get cavities.
What are the main risk factors for cavities?
The main risk factors for cavities are:
- Poor oral hygiene. Brushing your teeth the wrong way, not brushing your teeth for long enough and forgetting to use floss can all lead to cavities.
- Crooked teeth. If your teeth are crooked or are too close together, this can be a risk factor for cavities because it makes it harder for you to clean between your teeth.
- Diet. A diet high in sugar, starch and acidic foods can easily lead to cavities.
- Acidic saliva. Some people naturally have slightly acidic saliva, and unfortunately this puts them at greater risk of cavities.
- Vomiting. Vomiting and gastrointestinal reflux can lead to cavities because the acid weakens your teeth.
What are the symptoms of cavities?
Initially, cavities are symptomless, but as they get larger your teeth will become more sensitive to certain foods, such as hot and cold foods as well as sweet ones.
Other early signs of cavities are stains, bad breath and a bad taste in the mouth.
Once the cavity has grown large enough to get through the enamel, you’ll probably feel pain as the cavity makes it way to the tooth’s pulp and nerve. You also might experience inflammation.
If you think you have a cavity, then it’s best to see a dentist as soon as possible. A dentist will be able to tell if you have a cavity or nor and will be able to administer treatment if necessary.
How can I prevent cavities?
Avoid cavities isn’t complicated. There are two main things you have to do: maintain a healthy diet and stick to a good oral hygiene routine. Here’s a few more tips on how to keep your teeth cavity-free:
- Brush your teeth twice day. Brush your teeth for two minutes twice a day, change your toothbrush every three months and make sure to use a toothpaste that contains fluoride.
- Floss. Make sure to floss every day before you go to sleep. It will help to dislodge food and bacteria from between your teeth.
- Chew gum. Chewing gum can help to prevent cavities because it stimulates your mouth to produce saliva. If you do chew gum though, make sure it’s sugar-free!
- Eat a healthy diet. Limit the amount of sugary and acidic foods that you eat, such as fruit juices.
- Visit a dentist regularly. Visit a dentist twice a year for a checkup.