No one likes cavities.
Most patients who come in for dental cleaning are always wondering: Do I have any cavities? Even the most diligent person who keeps their teeth and gums clean wonders why they still get cavities.
That’s why cavity prevention is one of our main dental health goals at All Smiles Bethesda. Cavities are a sign of tooth decay.
While cavity prevention is important, it is also important to understand how cavities form. There are three ways:
- Plaque accumulation. Dental plaque is a clear sticky film that coats your teeth. This can form from eating too many sugars and starches or not brushing the teeth well enough. Everyone’s mouth has good and bad bacteria. With an overabundance of plaque, the bad bacteria begin to take over. The plaque stays on the teeth and can form above or below the gum line and develop into tartar or calculus. Calculus can only be removed during a cleaning visit.
- Progression of Plaque. Plaque has an accumulation of bad bacteria that produce an acidic environment. This can remove minerals in the tooth’s enamel, creating erosion and holes in the teeth known as cavities. Teeth are made up of a hydroxyapatite mixture of calcium and phosphorous
- Plaque destroys. Once the other layer of the tooth (the enamel) is eroded, the inner layer of the teeth is at risk. As bacteria and acid colonize the inner layers of the teeth, the teeth can start getting sensitive. Blood vessels and nerve fibers are agitated causing sensitivity. If the source of the bacteria and cavity is not removed at this point, the bacteria can travel to the nerve or pulp, creating severe pain.
Cavities can have serious health complications which may include:
- Chewing issues
- Tooth abscess
- Swelling or pus around a tooth
- Damaged or broken teeth
- Positioning shifts of teeth after tooth loss
Cavity prevention is simple. Take time, on a daily basis, to eat healthily and care for your teeth. Basic care includes:
- Brush your teeth at least twice a day and after every meal and use fluoride toothpaste. Floss your teeth, daily right before you go to sleep.
- Rinse your mouth using a mouth rinse with fluoride.
- See your dentist twice a year for cleanings and regular oral exams, which can help prevent problems. Remember tiny cavities lead to larger cavities. It is much easier to have a tiny cavity taken care of compared to a larger cavity.
- Drink water regularly. Most public water supplies have added fluoride, which can help reduce tooth decay. The extra moisture also helps flush away bacteria.
- Avoid sugary drinks and snacks. Stay away from soft drinks and energy drinks that have cavity-causing sugars that can destroy tooth enamel. Snacking frequently during the day will cause serious tooth decay. If you snack or drink acidic beverages throughout the day, the teeth do not get to rest and cleanse themselves.
- Eat more fresh fruits and vegetables which increases saliva flow.
- Fluoride treatments can be beneficial. Custom trays can be made to fit over the teeth or prescription fluoride toothpaste can be prescribed for those who are at higher risk.
- Dentists may recommend antibacterial treatments. If you have certain health conditions, you may be vulnerable to cavities and tooth decay. Your dentist may recommend special antibacterial mouth rinses or other treatments which decrease harmful bacteria.
To help monitor and prevent tooth decay we recommend that everyone is seen every 6 months to help monitor their oral health care. All Smiles Bethesda has experienced dentists and dental hygienists who can take care of your dental needs. Remember everyone has different risk factors including genetics and health history. At All Smiles Bethesda, our health professionals will help you stay on top of it and make sure your tiny cavities don’t turn into larger cavities. Larger cavities usually mean more pain and more treatment.
If you would like to schedule an appointment at our family dentistry, please call us at 301-984-9646 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
*** For more on cavities, visit the American Dental Association website.