Cavities are the number one cause of tooth loss, so it is important to know how to identify them, prevent them and ultimately, treat them. Known as “tooth decay” in medical terms, cavities are the most common dental malady and the second most common health condition, after the common cold (according to the National Institute of Health). Fortunately, they can be discovered in early stages and treated, so as not to cause any problems in the future.
Causes of cavities
- Improper dental hygiene
- A diet high in sugar and starch
- Lack of fluoride
- Chronic diseases or medication which inhibits saliva production
- Drug use
Symptoms of cavities
Incipient cavities have little to no symptoms. You may feel a slight sensitivity to cold and a mild discoloration on the tooth surface in the initial stages of the cavity when the enamel is worn out. When the cavity advances on the dentin, a dark spot appears, and the tooth sensitivity increases. Lastly, when the tooth’s pulp is affected, it becomes painful and you can often times feel holes in the tooth. You may even experience a bad taste in your mouth and bad breath in the morning. During this last stage, the pain becomes extremely acute, and the nerve eventually dies, leaving the tooth exposed to an abscess (tooth infection).
Depending on the cavity’s advancement, there are different types of dental procedures you can undergo. Fillings, crowns and root canals are the alternatives for treating a cavity:
- Fillings – Usable for small cavities, that left intact most of the tooth, fillings require removing the affected portion of the tooth and replacing it with a material that is resistant, comfortable and can perfectly be molded in the remaining space. The most popular fillings are porcelain and composite resins, as they can perfectly mimic the color of natural teeth. Silver alloy (amalgam) and gold are much more resistant. Because of their color, they are reserved for back teeth or replaced with one of the tooth-colored materials.
- Crowns (or caps) – Suitable for treating extended cavities, crowns require removing the decayed tooth and reshaping the remaining tooth so as to provide a good base for the cap. The crown is attached onto the reshaped tooth and sealed with special cement. Crowns are available in gold, porcelain, porcelain fused to metal and composite. The material choice should be discussed with the dentist.
- Root canals– You qualify for a root canal treatment when the cavities affect the tooth’s pulp. The treatment involves removing the tooth’s pulp and nerve, thoroughly cleaning the canals and sealing them to prevent food and saliva from entering on the canals. The root canal treatment is followed by a filling or a crown, depending on how much tooth remains after removing the decayed portions.
- Brush at least twice a day and floss at least once a day
- Minimize the intake of products high in sugar and starch
- Visit the dentist every six months for a complete check-up
- Ask for a professional cleaning at least once a year if you do not smoke (sooner if the tartar build-up is high) or twice a year if you smoke or chew tobacco.
Cavities are common, but they should not affect your busy life! Visit our Naperville office today for cost-effective and reliable cavities treatment.