Tooth decay is the destruction of the hard tissues of the teeth. It is caused by the presence of acid produced by bacteria of the plaque deposited on the tooth surfaces. This tooth decay is heavily influenced by lifestyle, i.e., influences what we eat, how we take care of the teeth (our hygiene habits), the presence of fluoride in water and toothpaste we use. Heredity also plays no role in susceptibility of your teeth to decay.
While cavities are generally more common in children, adults are also at risk for it. The types of cavities include:
- Crown caries: Are the most common, occurs in both children and adults, and usually develop on the chewing surfaces or between the teeth.
- Root caries: In cases where the gums recede parts are exposed tooth root. As the roots are not covered by enamel, these exposed areas easily affected and root caries appear that are difficult to treat.
- Recurrent caries: In patients with a tendency to accumulate plaque and good hygiene fail, they can form new decay around existing fillings and crowns.
The adults are particularly at risk for cavities if they suffer from dry mouth, which is a disorder caused by a lack of saliva. This is because some diseases, the use of some drugs, and radiation treatments and chemotherapy. Dry mouth can be temporary or permanent, depending on its origin. Cavities can be serious and if left untreated, can destroy the tooth affecting the nerves inside, which can cause an abscess (an infection in the root end). Once formed an abscess, the only treatment is endodontics (also called root canal treatment) or tooth extraction.
How do I know if I have a cavity?
Only your dentist can tell for sure if you have a cavity. This is because cavities develop below the surface of the tooth where the top cannot see them. When we eat foods containing carbohydrates (sugars and starches), the bacteria in plaque produce acids consume and to destroy the tooth. Over time, the enamel starts to be demineralized and thus a cavity is formed.
Cavities are more likely to develop in pits on the chewing surfaces of back teeth, between teeth and near the gum. However, regardless of where they appear, the best way to locate and treat them before they become serious is visiting the dentist and undergo periodic inspections or reviews.
How I can help prevent cavities?
- Brush your teeth at least twice a day and floss daily to remove plaque from between teeth and under the gumline.
- Undergo regular dental checkups. Preventive care helps prevent problems from occurring and keep minor problems from becoming major.
- Eat a balanced diet that limits starchy or sugary foods. When you eat these foods, try to do it with a meal rather than between meals to minimize the number of times exposes your teeth to acid-producing bacteria.
- Use dental products that contain fluoride.