Not only is tooth decay a sign of poor oral health, it is sadly a very common health issue for both kids and adults. In fact, according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, approximately 92 percent of adults in the United States from ages 20 to 64 have had cavities in their permanent teeth. Understanding exactly what a cavity is and how it is treated and prevented can help you keep your smile healthy.
What Exactly Is A Cavity?
The word cavity is synonymous with hole, and this is essentially what is happening on your tooth. Here’s what goes on – Bacteria in the mouth converts the food you eat (especially carbohydrates) that you didn’t brush, rinse, or floss away into acid. Together, these acids combine with remaining food and saliva to form plaque. This sticky substance is responsible for launching the process of tooth decay. Believe or not, plaque begins to buildup within 20 minutes after you eat! Plaque holds acid on your teeth, which slowly dissolves your tooth enamel and creates a hole, or cavity.
Your dentist will treat your cavity based on the level or degree of decay. Catching a cavity at its earliest stages will obviously affect how invasive your treatment must be.
Filling: If the bacteria and acids cause only a small hole in your tooth, your dentist will most likely just remove the old portion of the tooth and replace it with a filling.
Crown: If your tooth decay is large or more extensive, you can expect to get a crown to restore your tooth.
Root Canal: If your cavity reaches deeper into your tooth structure and affects the tooth pulp, it may become infected and require a root canal. This procedure involves removing the tooth’s pulp and nerve and then sealing off the roots.
Your Weapons Against Decay
To prevent plaque buildup, your fight should be two-fold. Not only should you adhere to a diligent brushing and flossing routine everyday, but you must also attend your routine professional dental cleanings. It is easy to let your six-month dental appointment become a yearly (or worse) attendance if you are not experiencing problems. However, it is important to remember that calculus (hardened plaque) can only be removed effectively with your dentist’s help. What steps can you take to ensure your smile stays free of decay?
Posted on behalf of Dr. Paul Gilreath IV, Gilreath Dental Associates