A cavity is a permanent damage caused to the tooth enamel or outer covering of the tooth. Cavities start small with tiny holes and grow deeper if left untreated. After a considerable amount of time, cavities can damage multiple layers of the teeth and begin to infect the root of the teeth as well. Also called tooth decay, cavities are not necessarily painful in the initial stages but can cause severe toothache, inability to chew, tooth sensitivity, and black spots or stains.
Cavities are caused over a long period of time and start with the formation of plaque, a sticky substance that coats the tooth enamel. Plaque begins to form right after eating or drinking sugary foods and drinks when the bacteria in the mouth turn the sugar into acid. The acid in the plaque gradually erodes the tooth enamel, increasing the risk for cavities.
The risk associated with tooth decay is increased in the following ways:
Cavities are typically visible to the naked eye and can be identified by dentists. In only certain cases, the decay is not visible, and an X-ray may be required.
The treatment for cavities depends on the severity. The treatment options are as follows:
Fluoride Treatment:In the early stages, tooth decay can be reversed with the help of a fluoride treatment that restores the enamel.
Tooth Fillings:The decayed part of the tooth is drilled out and then filled with a dental filling.
Crowns:If a significant part of the tooth is damaged, the decayed part would have to be removed and replaced with a dental crown.
Root Canal:In severe cases where the infection has reached the nerves, a root canal procedure is conducted to remove all decayed parts. Medication is then applied to the roots if necessary, and a crown is placed on the tooth.
Cavities are a common health condition, especially among young kids, teenagers, and older individuals. This is so because children have tender teeth and tend to consume more sugars, and older individuals would have suffered wearing down of tooth enamel throughout life.
Cavities can be prevented by watching sugar intake, brushing, and flossing twice a day, and most of all, visiting the dentist every six months so that the condition can be treated at the earliest.