Everything You Need to Know About a Cavity
Ahh, those four dreaded words from your dentist: “You have a cavity.” It’s the last thing anyone wants to hear at their afternoon appointment, but do you know exactly what the dentist is referring to when they spot a cavity? And how to prevent a cavity.
What is a Cavity?
Put simply, a cavity is a hole in your tooth, caused by tooth decay that has progressed far enough to strip the enamel from your tooth. Without the enamel barrier, your saliva has easy access to the root of your tooth, which houses your nerves. When these nerves come in contact with hot or cold food or drink, it can be quite painful.
Causes of a Cavity
A cavity is caused when your tooth decays, typically from demineralization. This occurs when the food you eat is left on your teeth and the bacteria in your mouth feed on it and release a byproduct of acid. The acid then attacks your teeth and strips the minerals from your enamel, hence the name demineralization.
Signs and Symptoms of a Cavity
Although you can’t know for sure if you have a cavity until you visit the dentist, here are some signs and symptoms that could mean you have a cavity:
- Tooth sensitivity
- Mild to sharp pain when eating or drinking something sweet, hot, or cold
- Visible holes or pits in your teeth
- Pain when you bite down
- Pus around a tooth
In the beginning, a cavity may not have any symptoms at all. As it progresses and the decay deepens, you’ll experience sensitivity and pain.
How to Prevent a Cavity
Although genetics sometimes plays a role in cavities, the best defense against tooth decay is a comprehensive oral hygiene routine. Brush twice a day for two minutes each, and make sure to floss! (Otherwise, you’re definitely leaving behind food residue that bacteria loves to feed on.)
You want to avoid cavities as much as possible, but if you do happen to get one, they’re fairly easy to treat. Your dentist will drill away the decayed portion of the tooth and replace it with a stronger filling of either composite resins, porcelain, silver, gold, or amalgam. If the decay is severe, your cavity may require advanced techniques such as a crown or a root canal.
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