What are dental cavities?


Dental cavities result from acids produced by bacteria sitting on our teeth

Dental cavity is a hole created on your tooth which typically results from oral bacteria. Cavity formation starts off when food gathers on your teeth surfaces. If you fail to clean your teeth, bacteria will attach themselves to this plaque buildup. These harmful bacteria produce an acidic byproduct which slowly dissolves away your tooth structure, resulting in cavities. If you suspect you may have dental cavities, visit your dentist immediately to have them accessed.

What causes tooth decay?

Three things are required before a cavity can form, which are: 

  • Bacteria
  • Sugar
  • Tooth

Cavities start off when bacteria attach themselves to the plaque which gathers on your teeth. These bacteria love sugars! They process sugars in your diet and produce a harmful acidic byproduct. This acid gradually destroys your tooth structure and creates cavities.

At what age am I at highest risk for cavity formation?

Cavities can arise at any age so long as you have teeth in your mouth. Children, adults and seniors alike can all develop cavities on their teeth:

  • Children can develop their first cavities on baby teeth soon after these teeth come out. Since children start teething around 6 months, you can have your first cavity when you’re under 2 years old!
  • Your first adult teeth start coming out when you’re around 6 to 7 years old. These cavities are more serious, since they affect your adult teeth. In fact, you can develop cavities on your adult teeth soon after they erupt if you’re not caring for your teeth. Typically, childhood and college years are when we are most susceptible to developing new cavities. We then spend the rest of our lives fixing and repairing these fillings!
  • Seniors typically don’t develop new cavities but rather recurrent ones. Recurrent cavities are those which form under old fillings and crowns. These typically require crowns, root canals and occasionally dental implants to fix the problem.

Where do cavities form?

Although cavities prefer deep groves on teeth surfaces, they can form on any tooth surface imaginable. The most common location for cavities to form is on the chewing surfaces of back teeth. The next common location is in-between your teeth. This is why it’s so important to brush and floss regularly to prevent bacteria from gathering on your teeth surfaces and leading to cavities.

What happens if I ignore my cavity?

Once cavities reach your tooth nerve, they cause infection and toothache

Cavities always start off on outer tooth surfaces where sugar and bacteria accumulate. From there, they work their way in towards the nerve canal. If you neglect to fix your cavities, they eventually manage to reach your tooth nerve. This causes an infection and results in toothache.

The best way to avoid reaching this stage is to fix cavities in their earlier stages. Small-to-medium sized cavities can easily be fixed with a filling. Once the cavity has reached your tooth nerve, getting a filling is no longer an option. At this point you require either a root canal therapy or tooth extraction.

How can I prevent dental cavities from forming?

Our top three tips to help fight off dental cavities are:

  1. Healthy Diet: Follow a healthy diet, one with limited processed sugars. It turns our, cavity bugs love processed sugars! These are sugars found in sweets, candies and sodas. Try to minimize your sugary intake. Whenever you eat sweets, rinse or brush your teeth afterwards.
  2. Brushing & Flossing: You should brush and floss your teeth daily at least once a day. If you fail to clean your teeth properly, food and plaque accumulate on your teeth. Sooner or later you will end up with a cavity.
  3. Dental Checkup & Cleanings: Visiting your dentist regularly is a great way to make sure your teeth are clean and cavity free. Your dentist can review your hygiene habits, clean your teeth and help you with preventive treatments if needed.

Brush ‘n Floss Yo Teeth!
Ali John Jazayeri, DDS

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