Mom checking daughter's teeth.

The mouth is a critical part of the body to keep healthy, especially the teeth. Poor dental hygiene can lead to severe health conditions. Therefore, it’s essential to focus on cavity prevention and tooth decay, not only for the health and well-being of your mouth but of your entire body.

What is a Tooth Cavity? 

A tooth cavity also referred to as tooth decay, is permanent damage to a tooth’s enamel. Enamel is the hard surface found on the outer layer of every tooth. Plaque is a sticky film of bacteria that develops on your teeth. Eating and drinking foods that are high in sugar cause the bacteria in plaque to produce acids. Those acids attack tooth enamel. Cavities form when tooth enamel begins to break down. 

Cavities begin as small holes in a tooth’s surface. A cavity becomes more prominent and more profound over time if it is left untreated. They can cause severe toothache, infections, and tooth loss. You might also observe white spots forming on your teeth. That is a sign of early tooth decay as it means minerals have been lost in those areas. The decay can be reversed at this point since it is early in the process. Tooth enamel can repair itself using fluoride in toothpaste and minerals in your saliva. 

Tooth decay comes in three varieties: smooth surface, pits and fissures, and root decay. Smooth surface tooth decay is the loss of tooth enamel. Cavities grow slowly during this process, so there is time to identify the issue and potentially reverse it. People in their 20s tend to deal with this decay. Pits and fissures are found on the top part of a tooth’s chewing surface. Teenagers are susceptible to this quick-developing decay. 

Root decay occurs in areas of gum recession since the tooth’s root is exposed to plaque and acid. This decay type is challenging to prevent and treat. Root decay is usually found in older patients. Children and adults can both suffer from cavities, though young children are more susceptible. Cavities are more of a problem for adults when they age due to gum recession. 

How Do I Prevent Cavities? 

A skilled general dentist can treat cavities using a variety of methods depending on the severity of the cavity. Patients should try to prevent tooth decay naturally before they reach the point of needing a dental procedure to repair a cavity. There are plenty of strategies you can employ to stop a cavity before it gets started. 

Brush Teeth Regularly 

Brushing your teeth is the first line of defense when it comes to how to prevent tooth decay. It would help if you brushed at least twice daily. Try to brush after every meal, if possible, using toothpaste that contains fluoride. 

Use Dental Floss 

Regular flossing should go together with brushing. Using dental floss or other interdental cleaners removes particles between teeth that a toothbrush can’t reach. Those particles can result in plaque buildup on teeth. Failure to remove that plaque can cause cavities. Plaque can also cause tartar to collect on teeth. Only a dentist can remove tartar. However, your dentist can show you proper flossing techniques at one of your checkups. 

Eat Healthily 

Diet also plays a role in preventing cavities. Nutritious foods and drinks are not only good for your overall health but also your mouth health. Limit foods and beverages high in sugar since too many of those can lead to cavity creation. 

Also, avoid foods that can get stuck in the cracks and crevices between teeth. Brush your tooth soon after consuming those foods. Then, substitute those foods with fresh fruits and vegetables as they increase saliva flow. Drinking unsweetened coffee, tea, and chewing sugar-free gum will also help remove food particles that get stuck in your teeth. 

Fluoride Treatments 

Fluoride is a mineral used to prevent tooth decay progression by preventing mineral loss in enamel and replacing lost minerals. It also inhibits bacteria’s ability to produce acid. Drinking fluoridated water from your local water supply and brushing with a toothpaste that contains fluoride are two simple ways to get fluoride. A dentist can also apply fluoride gels to teeth, prescribe fluoride tablets, and recommend a mouth wash that contains fluoride. 

Regular Dentist Visits 

Scheduling regular teeth cleanings and oral exams should be a crucial part of any oral care plan. A dentist is your mouth health partner who can provide you with strategies to prevent tooth decay while also fixing any oral issues that arise. 

Use Dental Sealants 

Dental sealants are thin coatings that are applied to the surfaces of your molars. Those teeth have uneven chewing surfaces due to the tiny pits and grooves found on the surfaces. Those pits and grooves provide ample spots for food particles and bacteria to collect. A typical toothbrush struggles to remove them due to the uneven surface. Dental sealants form a protective barrier over those surfaces that prevent food and bacteria buildup. 

Consult your dentist about having your children’s permanent molars sealed. The six-year molars tend to emerge between ages five (5) and seven (7), while the 12-year molars typically come through between ages eleven (11) and fourteen (14). 

Mouth Rinses 

A mouth rinse is another means of preventing cavities. It works well when used in combination with brushing and flossing. Choose a rinse that contains fluoride as it negates the acids that attack tooth enamel. The fluoride is absorbed into the enamel. It replenishes the lost calcium and phosphorus in your teeth. Mouth rinses that contain fluoride are available over-the-counter or as prescription strength through your dentist. 

What Toothpaste Should You Use to Prevent Cavities? 

A key component to properly brushing your teeth is using the correct type of toothpaste. A toothpaste that contains fluoride is the most effective kind when it comes to preventing cavities. Fluoride, a mineral in nature, works well to prevent cavities by remineralizing tooth enamel in areas where the enamel has weakened. Brushing your teeth regularly with fluoride-containing toothpaste strengthens the overall tooth enamel and fortifies your teeth against harmful plaque. 

What are Symptoms I Have a Cavity? 

Cavities can still occur despite your best efforts to prevent them. Only a general dentist can tell you with any certainty if you have a cavity. See if you have any of the following cavity symptoms. 

  • Tooth pain when you bite; 
  • Tooth sensitivity; 
  • Toothache or random tooth pain; 
  • Pain that results from eating or drinking hot, cold, or sweet foods; 
  • Visible tooth holes; 
  • Brown, black, or white stained teeth. 

Schedule a consultation with your local general dentist if you’re having one or more of those symptoms. 

How to Treat a Cavity 

The best-case scenario for anyone’s teeth is to remain cavity-free. But even the most diligent folks can get a cavity. Different repair options are available depending on the stage of the cavity. 

  1. Fillings: A standard cavity filling is the most common treatment option. Dentists will opt for a filling when the cavity is no longer in its early stage, so the enamel can’t be restored. Filling materials are typically tooth-colored composite resins, porcelain, or a mix of several materials. Fillings nowadays are tooth-colored so that they blend into your existing teeth. No one will be able to see that you have a filling if you open your mouth at a certain angle. 
  2. Crowns: A crown is a custom-fitted covering designed to replace a tooth’s natural crown. Crowns are used when a tooth’s decay is severe, or the decay has weakened the tooth. The dentist molds the tooth for a crown by drilling away the decay and enough of the remaining tooth to ensure a proper fit. Crowns are made from multiple materials, including porcelain, resin, porcelain fused to metal, and even gold. 
  3. Root Canals: These allow a dentist to repair and save a tooth as opposed to removing it. Advanced cases of decay reach a tooth’s pulp. The damaged pulp is removed and replaced with a filling. 
  4. Tooth Extraction: The only option in cases of extreme decay is to remove the infected tooth. Ask your dentist about a bridge or a dental implant to replace the extracted tooth. This will prevent your remaining teeth from shifting due to the gap left from the removed tooth. 
  5. Fluoride Treatments: Suppose you or your dentist catches the cavity early enough. In that case, you might only need fluoride treatments instead of a dental procedure. Fluoride can potentially restore a tooth’s enamel or even reverse the decay process if caught early enough. Fluoride treatments can come in the form of gels, foams, liquids, or as a varnish. 

Find a General Dentist Near You for Cavity Prevention 

Consult your dentist to discuss the best methods for cavity prevention or if you’re suffering from cavity symptoms. Or if you're asking where to find a trusted dentist near me, check out The Smile Generation to find a dentist near you for your cavity prevention and treatment needs. You can read patient reviews, peruse staff bios, and schedule an appointment online with a click of your mouse.