Enamel is the hard, white outer coating of teeth, made up of a mineral called calcium phosphate. Because of its high density of minerals, enamel is the most resilient, durable and damage-resistant material in the human body, allowing our teeth to withstand the pressure and friction of daily activities like eating, chewing, and biting.
However, despite its durability, enamel is susceptible to erosion, and eroded enamel weakens the entire tooth, increasing the risk for cavities. Cavities are small areas of tooth decay that occur when sugar mixes with the natural bacterias in the mouth, forming a sticky, acidic residue that eats away at the tooth. While cavities are common, they can cause big problems if not properly treated.
Bright Now! Dental offers a full range of restorative and preventative services to help you and your family keep cavities at bay. From routine checkups to cleanings, fluoride treatments to fillings, l we strongly encourage you to schedule a dental checkup to screen for cavities or other oral health concerns, we help you protect a beautiful, healthy smile that will last a lifetime.
What causes a cavity to develop?
The most frequent cause of cavity development is sugar. We have over 700 species of bacteria that reside naturally in our mouths, but when we consume sugary drinks or foods and don’t brush after, that bacteria feeds on the sugar and produces a secretion of acid. This acid combines with the sugars and bacteria, resulting in a sticky mixture called plaque that accumulates on the surface of the teeth. When removed quickly and regularly, plaque doesn’t pose a threat. However, the acidic nature of plaque causes the enamel to erode, leaving small holes in the teeth that are prone to infection. Additionally, if plaque hardens, it forms a substance called tartar which is highly damaging to teeth and cannot be treated with regular brushing and flossing–it has to be professionally removed.
Good daily oral hygiene, routine cleanings, and limiting and monitoring sugar intake are some of the best ways to protect against cavities.
However there are a few other factors that may increase the likelihood of developing a cavity:
- Smoking tobacco dries out the mouth, making it easier for bacteria to multiply. When you stop using tobacco or nicotine, you greatly decrease your chance for cavities and other oral health concerns.
- Some medications such as antihistamines or anti-anxiety drugs can also have a dry mouth side effect. Be sure to talk to your dentist about this side effect; they may be able to prescribe a toothpaste or mouthwash that can help with saliva production.
- Older adults are at an increased risk due to the receding of the gum line, which exposes more enamel. Though this is hard to combat, regular dental checkups can help ensure your oral health is monitored and maintained as effectively as possible.
- Young children and babies have yet to develop healthy dental hygiene habits and are particularly fond of sugary foods and drinks. Monitoring sugar intake and regular brushing will protect the deciduous teeth and teach your children healthy long term habits. Additionally, it’s important to schedule regular appointments so that the baby teeth can be monitored, x-rayed and receive fluoride treatments.
How does diet affect tooth enamel and cavities?
What foods can strengthen tooth enamel?
Foods high in calcium and magnesium play a small role in strengthening and preserving healthy enamel and preventing cavities. Consuming these kinds of food on a regular basis can help protect your teeth against cavities by building more durable tooth enamel.
These foods include:
What foods can weaken tooth enamel?
Sugary and acidic foods and drinks can have a detrimental effect on the strength of the enamel, and consuming them on a regular basis increases the risk for cavities and tooth decay. These foods include:
- Soda and Diet Soda
- Sweetened Coffees and Teas
- Fast Food
- Foods or beverages prepared using these ingredients
Can cavities be prevented?
While cavities can happen even with the best oral hygiene, you can minimize their frequency and severity with:
- Good dental hygiene, specifically regular brushing and flossing. It works best because it removes sugar and plaque from the teeth on a daily basis to keep plaque from building up to the point that it forms a cavity. The American Dental Association recommends brushing and flossing at least twice a day and after consuming meals or drinks high in sugar.
- Professional cleanings, which are cleaning appointments performed by a dental hygienist who uses specialized tools to remove any built up plaque or tartar. These are effective because even with the healthiest of habits, plaque will still build up to some degree and does need to be professionally removed.
- Fluoride treatments, during which your dentist applies a special fluoride solution directly to the teeth to help strengthen and protect the existing enamel. Fluoride treatments help reinforce your teeth’s ability to resist decay and counteract the enamel-weakening effects of plaque and tartar.
- Sealants are special barriers placed between the teeth and surrounding tissues. Sealants are effective at keeping cavities from forming and reduce your risk of decay. They are most often applied to molars and used in children or teenagers who have yet to establish healthy habits or who have a hard time keeping their back teeth clean.
- Limited sugar intake, which requires you to be mindful of the foods and drinks you’re consuming. An example might include choosing water over a sugary soda, or not eating sugary snacks late at night, when there is more time for the sugars to sit on the teeth.
What are the steps of a dental filling appointment?
Only a dentist can identify and treat a cavity, and most cavities are detected during the exam portion of your bi-annual dental checkup. Using special tools and lights, your dentist can find areas of decay in hard-to-see places like between and behind teeth and in the deep pits or grooves of back molars.
Moreover, cavities do not cause painful symptoms in their early stages, so you may have one and not even know it. This is also why regular checkups are important–they give your dentist a chance to find any cavities while they are still small and relatively easy to treat.
If your doctor does discover a cavity during your oral exam, he or she will schedule a future appointment for you to come in to have the cavity filled.
Here’s what a dental filling appointment will typically look like:
- When you arrive for your filling appointment your doctor will begin the procedure by administering a local anesthetic via injection. This is usually the most uncomfortable part of the procedure for most patients, but it should not cause extreme pain.
- Once the numbing agent has taken effect, your dentist will use specialized tools to drill a small hole into the tooth and clear out the areas of decay.
- The dentist will then fill the newly cleaned hole with filling material. There are two kinds of material commonly used for fillings:
- Composite Resin -This material is less noticeable because it has a more natural appearance. While it does tend to be more expensive, patients often select it when the cavities are in a visible place in their smile.
- Metal Amalgam – While this material is a more cost effective option, it does have a metal appearance that some people prefer to avoid. It is typically applied on molars that are rarely seen.
Once the filling procedure is complete, you can return to your normal day-to-day activities. Although you can eat and drink immediately following your procedure, it is important to keep in mind that your mouth may still be a little numb and you risk biting your tongue or cheek. Though you shouldn’t experience pain or soreness following your filling, you may feel some slight discomfort. Be sure to let your dentist know if it persists beyond 24 hours or so.
What happens if you don’t treat a cavity?
Treating cavities requires professional dental care; cavities will not resolve on their own and they cannot be treated by home remedies. If you leave a cavity untreated, the decay can continue to spread throughout the rest of the tooth and into the gums and jaw, which can have serious consequences for your overall health. You may experience unsightly discoloration, sensitivity to cold or hot foods and drinks, unnecessary pain, and, potentially, tooth loss.
The extent and type of treatment needed for a cavity depends on how far it has progressed in the affected tooth.
- Early Stage Treatment – When detected in a timely manner, a cavity will likely require only a filling.
- Moderate Stage Treatment – If the cavity has persisted too long but infection has yet to set in, a larger filling will be required with a cap or a crown placed over it to further protect the tooth.
- Late Stage Treatment – If not treated, a cavity will eventually lead to an infection of the dental pulp, which requires a root canal. In worst case scenarios, this infection can spread to the jaw bone and could result in the extraction of the tooth.
Can baby teeth get cavities?
Baby teeth, or deciduous teeth, are often thought of as unimportant because they will eventually be replaced, so cavities can be overlooked. However, the proper care and keeping of baby teeth is critical to pediatric health and development, so cavities in baby teeth do require treatment.
Healthy baby teeth lay the foundation for healthy adult teeth.
When children experience dental issues, it has the potential of affecting a number of things, including:
- Diet – When a child is experiencing pain or sensitivity in their mouth. it may cause them to change their diet. Dietary deficiencies can affect a child’s overall health and development now and in the future.
- Speech – Children with pain and sensitivity in their mouth or teeth often restrict their speech, since it’s uncomfortable to speak. This is a critical time in speech development and can have a long term effect on their ability to communicate.
- Foundation for permanent teeth – Baby teeth guide adult teeth into their proper places and decay in baby teeth can spread to the adult teeth behind them, so it is critical that children visit the dentist on a semi-annual basis to ensure that their teeth are healthy and the muscles in their mouths are functioning properly and free from any dental issues.
What are tips to prevent cavities in children?
When children develop healthy routines, such as brushing flossing and regular dental checkups, they lay the foundation for a lifetime of oral health. Teaching them these few techniques and habits will be the most effective tool you can give them to help them avoid costly and painful procedures associated with tooth decay.
The following is a list of ideas and tips to make dental hygiene fun and effective.
- Let them floss! As parents or guardians, we often feel that because we can do it better, we must do it for them. Let them floss first and then step in for a double check. This ensures they are still learning this important habit but that the job is also being done thoroughly.
- Set a timer! Kids love and respond well to timers. It gives them something to race against or a goal to reach, which is an effective teaching mechanism. This makes the chore fun and children will be more inclined to repeat this on a regular basis rather than dread the chore.
- Play Music! Brushing for the duration of a song is helpful because again, it presents a finish line for them.
- Let them choose their toothpaste and toothbrush! When kids choose their own things, they are much more likely to be excited about using them.
- Schedule their dental checkups. This normalizes going to the dentist. The more they go, the more they feel comfortable. When attending the dentist regularly, you ensure that any potential issues can be identified and treated as early as possible.
- Limit and monitor sugar intake. While this can be challenging, it will be effective in protecting against cavities. Be aware of what they have access to in the home and that they are brushing soon after consuming foods or drinks high in sugar.
- Don’t put babies or toddlers to bed with a drink, especially a bottle. This allows the sugars in milk or juice to sit in the mouth overnight, which could lead to ear infections and tooth decay.
How much does a filling cost?
There are several factors that go into determining the price of a filling, such as:
- Where is the tooth located?
- How severe is the cavity?
- How much and what kind of anesthesia was used?
- Was sedation required?
- What type of filling material was used?
Fillings are a very common dental procedure, so most insurance plans cover part or most of the expense. Your oral health is our priority, so if you do not have insurance, Bright Now! Dental offers the OneSmile dental plan for discounts on all dental services and free exams and x-rays for one low yearly fee. We also accept CareCredit and provide flexible payment and financing options to help make restorative procedures like fillings affordable for everyone. Find out more about affordable dental care from Bright Now! Dental here.
Catch Cavities Early at Bright Now! Dental
When it comes to cavities, Bright Now! Dental believes prevention is the best medicine. That’s why we make it easy, convenient, and affordable for you to get preventative treatments like fluoride, sealants, and cleanings at all of our locations. If you do get a cavity, we’ve got you covered with restorative dentistry like fillings and crowns.
At Bright Now! Dental, we believe everyone deserves a beautiful, healthy smile. Find your nearest Bright Now! Dental location and make an appointment today!