How healthy is your smile? Maximizing your oral health is essential to ensuring you can enjoy a bright and white smile. One of the most common issues that people face with their oral hygiene is a cavity, but what exactly is one, and what should you do if you think you have one?
We thought we would take a closer look at some of the most common questions patients have about a cavity and their overall oral health.
What is a cavity?
Before we take a look at what you should do if you have a cavity, the first thing to understand is what exactly one is. A cavity is formed when the tooth decays, and it is a hole on the outer part of the tooth that, if left untreated, can cause pain, sensitivity, and eventually, loss of the entire tooth.
A cavity is caused by plaque, which is a sticky substance that forms due to bacteria in your mouth. This bacteria builds up from the food and drink that we consume, and poor dental health sees it slowly begin to eat away at the enamel.
Regular checks from the dentist will help to identify a cavity before it becomes a major issue, helping to maximize your oral hygiene.
What are the symptoms of a cavity?
The sooner that you are able to identify the signs of a cavity, the quicker that your dentist will be able to treat the damaged areas and save your tooth. There are many different signs of a cavity, but the most common are:
One of the first signs that you might have a cavity is noticing that your teeth are suddenly sensitive to hot and cold food and drink. Of course, this could also be a sign of a range of additional oral health issues and is not solely indicating that you have a cavity.
Do you notice that there is a sharp pain through your teeth or jaw when you bite down on something? This most typically occurs when chewing on harder foods, but depending on how bad the cavity might be, this could also occur on softer foods.
Another very common sign that you might have a cavity is noticing that you have a continuous toothache throughout the day, no matter what you are eating or drinking. Of course, just like the other symptoms, this is not exclusively a sign of a cavity and can indicate a range of other possible issues.
4) Visible signs
Finally, another very common symptom of a cavity is noticing that your teeth are different. This could be seeing brown or black staining across the surface of the tooth, most commonly in the areas where two teeth touch. In serious cases, you might even be able to identify holes and areas of damage on the enamel itself.
When should you see a dentist about your cavity?
If you are noticing any of the above symptoms, or something just does not quite feel normal with your teeth, you should make sure that you book an appointment to see your local dental health provider. Your dentist will be able to examine your entire mouth and identify areas of concern before creating a detailed treatment plan just for you.
Many people dislike going to the dentist, but ignoring the symptoms and putting off your visit can lead to major issues. The longer your cavity is left untreated, the larger the hole will become and the deeper it will go, causing more pain and discomfort that could see you losing the tooth entirely.
If left untreated long enough, the cavity could eventually lead to a tooth abscess or infection that could be life-threatening.
Alongside regular visits to your dentist, you should also make sure that you are practicing good oral health. Brushing and flossing your teeth every day is essential to removing the bacteria that causes a cavity, leaving your smile looking bright and white.
What are the treatment options for a cavity?
Although a cavity can be painful and disrupt your life, they are thankfully very easy to treat. The sooner that you are able to identify the cavity, the easier it is to repair and the less damage to your original tooth.
Some of the most common treatment options include:
1) Fluoride Treatment
If you have caught the cavity early enough, then your dentist might suggest a fluoride treatment that will help to restore some of your tooth’s enamel and stop the cavity in its tracks. This is a good option for those patients who only have the early signs of a cavity and do not require extensive treatment at this point.
Fluoride treatment can come in a range of different methods, most commonly though it will be in the form of a liquid, foam, gel, or varnish.
2) Tooth filling
The most common treatment for a tooth cavity is to have a dental filling. Sometimes referred to as a dental restoration, this is a method of restoring the strength and structure of the tooth while also helping to stop the cavity from spreading further.
These fillings can be made from a range of different materials, including composite resins, porcelain, or dental amalgam. The former options are often tooth-colored, ensuring that they are not visible to other people, whereas an amalgam is usually silver in color.
A filling is capable of lasting for many years, ensuring that patients do not need to worry about regular treatment once it has been fitted.
3) Dental crowns
If the damage caused by the cavity has gone beyond what can be fixed by a dental filling, your dentist might suggest that you need a crown. This is a unique form of treatment that is designed to provide strength and protection to your original tooth.
Custom-fitted to your mouth, the crown fits over your existing tooth to create a smooth and perfect finish. In order to do this, your dentist will need to drill away all of the decayed areas and create a suitable platform for the crown to fit over.
A dental crown will typically be made from a very high strength material such as porcelain, gold, resin, or porcelain fused to metal. Once fitted, your crown will be able to last for many years without any issues.
4) Root canal
Should the decay extend beyond the enamel and into the inner part of your tooth, then your dentist will need to conduct a root canal. This is a major form of treatment that removes all of the diseased pulp in the middle of your tooth in the canals and replacing it with a filling.
This will prevent any discomfort or sensitivity from occurring, and then once the treatment has been completed, the tooth will then be capped with a crown to protect it from further damage.
5) Tooth extraction
If the damage caused by a cavity is so severe that it cannot be saved, then the only treatment remaining is to remove the tooth completely. This will leave a gap in your teeth, though, so you may want to consider a dental implant to restore your smile.
How to avoid a cavity
When it comes to avoiding a cavity, practicing good oral hygiene is essential. That is why you want to ensure that you are:
- Brushing your teeth with a fluoride toothpaste
- Making sure that you are visiting your dentist regularly
- Flossing between your teeth daily
- Avoiding foods and drinks that are high in sugar
Get checked out today
If left untreated, a cavity can cause major damage to your tooth and ruin your smile. That is why if you are experiencing any symptoms, you should book an appointment with your dental care provider to ensure they can fix your tooth before it becomes permanently damaged.