Cavities and Their Culprits: What To Watch Out For
Teeth are notoriously difficult to care for, especially when the modern diet includes many erosive sugars.
Frustration is completely understandable with how often cavities can form. That’s why learning about the common factors behind cavities is so vital in determining why you get cavities so easily.
How Do I Know If I Have a Cavity?
The tricky thing about cavities is that their symptoms greatly vary by person. In the very first stages, a cavity may cause no discomfort at all. Only in the later stages do the signs of cavities become readily apparent.
One of the first signs of a cavity is that your teeth may begin to feel extra sensitive, or you may start feeling toothaches with no obvious source. You might also experience discomfort whenever you eat or drink something that is especially hot, cold, or sweet. Even the simple act of biting down can cause pain. Visually, you’ll start to notice dark holes or pits along the surface of your teeth, as well as stains of various colors —- particularly white, black, or brown shades.
It’s important to note that certain age groups have a higher probability of developing cavities than others. For example, older adults are more likely to develop symptoms of cavities, as well as children and teenagers. However, you can get cavities easily at any age, even when you still have your baby teeth!
Common Causes for Cavities
Cavities are usually caused by several factors. Bacteria in the mouth, consuming sugary foods or drinks and neglecting to fully clean your teeth all contribute to the development of cavities. Also known as tooth decay, a cavity will form over a longer period.
It all begins with plaque, a sticky film that forms over the surface of teeth. When you consume sugars and don’t clean your teeth thoroughly, bacteria will feed on everything left behind. The result is plaque, which can harden into tartar. Tartar is extremely difficult to remove from the surface of your teeth and the bacteria is essentially protected by this hardened layer.
The acids contained in plaque slowly remove minerals from the enamel, the hard outer coating on our teeth. As the enamel whittles away, bacteria and other acids now have access to the inner layers of the tooth (called pulp). This is where a lot of nerves and blood vessels are. When they become irritated by the advancing decay, pain occurs.
Many cavities form in the harder-to-reach areas like the back of your mouth — especially the molars. Besides being a challenge to reach, these back teeth have plenty of tiny crevices for bacteria to slip into. They also have multiple roots, which pick up stray food particles in your mouth.
Foods or Drinks High in Sugar
When it comes to dental health, know that there are certain foods with a tendency to “cling” to your enamel. Foods high in sugar or starches — such as dairy, honey, and soda — are not as easily removed. As a result, bacteria can settle much easier. It’s advised that you brush shortly after consuming a high amount of sugar; this way, food particles can’t fully set on your teeth.
The frequency of your snacking can also add to why you’re getting cavities so easily. The more times you snack throughout the day, the more chance for bacteria to produce acids that break down enamel.
When Brushing Isn’t Enough
You may be wondering why you still get cavities even though you brush. Unfortunately, brushing isn’t always enough to fully defend the enamel from bacteria. Your teeth may require additional dental care and, in some cases, the avoidance of certain foods altogether. Always consult your dentist for advice before you make changes in your dental routine.
Not Enough Fluoride
Fluoride is a powerful tool for cavity prevention. It can be found in many types of dental products and public water sources, prized for its ability to reverse the early stages of tooth decay.
There is a chance you may not be getting enough fluoride through your daily care. Without this extra shield of defense, your teeth are at greater risk for decay. If you can, look for dental products that contain fluoride as an active ingredient (i.e. toothpaste, mouthwash, or floss).
A Dry Mouth
Usually, saliva does a lot of the work for you when it washes food particles from your teeth. But if you suffer from a dry mouth, troublesome food (and by extension, plaque) is left behind. What's more, certain chemical compounds in saliva counteract the effects of acid produced by bacteria.
There are many potential causes for this condition, including medications, other medical conditions, or chemotherapy — all of which significantly reduce the amount of saliva in the mouth.
Older Dental Fillings or Devices
Perhaps you already have dental fillings or devices in place. Over time, these fillings can weaken and break down. This leaves space for plaque to build up, followed by other stages of tooth decay.
Dental fixtures additionally make it difficult to remove signs of plaque if they’re blocking a good portion of the tooth surface. After several years, some oral devices don’t fit as well, letting tooth decay develop underneath them.
Eating disorders can have a direct impact on tooth health. Anorexia and bulimia are known to cause detrimental tooth erosion. The acid from continual purging washes over the teeth, wearing down the enamel and other protective layers. Eating disorders also interfere with proper saliva production which, as mentioned earlier, is essential in warding off potential cavities.
Why Catching Cavities Matters
Cavities are one of the world’s leading dental health concerns. Because of their commonality, many don’t view them as a serious condition. But tooth decay is a very serious matter with lasting complications for your health. Even children without their permanent set of teeth can suffer from lifelong issues due to cavities.
There are both short and long-term problems associated with cavity formation. Among them are pain, difficulty chewing, and swelling around the infected area. As the decay reaches a later stage, you may be faced with nutritional deficiencies from the pain of eating. Tooth loss begins to occur here, as well as a condition known as tooth abscess — a pocket of pus that’s formed from bacterial infection. A tooth abscess is very dangerous, as the condition can spiral into even other, larger infections.
How to Prevent Cavities
Luckily, there are plenty of ways to fight back against cavities and their effects. With a good oral routine, you can promote a healthier mouth. A few tips to remember are as follows:
- Incorporate fluoride dental products into your routine and brush at least twice a day
- Visit your dentist regularly for checkups and cleanings
- Consume foods that contribute to overall tooth health (i.e. fresh fruits and vegetables, unsweetened tea, low-sugar foods)
- Consider fluoride treatments with custom-made trays or prescription fluoride
- Ask your dentist about antibacterial treatments, such as specialty mouthwash
Keep Cavities Out with Lee Simon!
Cavities don’t have a place in your mouth, so schedule an appointment for a cleaning with Lee Simon today!