One major lesson we learned as a kid is that frequent snacking on sugary foods and beverages can cause cavities, especially if you aren’t brushing and flossing twice a day. It can be hard to deny those sweet treats, which is why cavities are among some of the most common oral health problems. You’ll likely get at least one cavity during your life if you don’t take proper care of your oral hygiene.
If you don’t treat a cavity, it can get larger and start to corrode the deeper layers of your teeth, often becoming painful and irritating as the cavity forms.
But how do cavities form, and how can you differentiate the signs of a cavity from a less serious problem?
What Is a Cavity?
Over time, food and bacteria can build up on your teeth and form plaque. If you aren’t committing to a regular brushing routine, the plaque can produce acids that erode the outer enamel on the surface of your teeth. If you allow the plaque to continue building up, it can eat away at the enamel and create cavities.
A cavity is a hole in a tooth that develops from tooth decay. If left untreated, it can grow and destroy your tooth. Cavities can also create further dental complications, such as a tooth abscess and/or gum infection. An infection that makes its way into your bloodstream can result in life-threatening diseases or conditions.
There are areas of the mouth that may be more susceptible to plaque development, such as:
- Chewing surfaces of the molars
- Areas between your teeth
- The bottom of your teeth near the gums
If you’re continuously eating sticky foods, it may increase your risk of developing one or more cavities.
Our team at Fresh Dental has narrowed down the common foods that cause cavities:
- Hard candy
- Potato chips
- Ice cream
- Soda beverages
- Fruit juice
- Coffee or tea with sugar
- Sugary foods like candy, gummies, cookies, cake, etc.
While cavities are most common among children, adults are still at risk. Some adults may experience receding gums that expose the roots of their teeth to plaque. If cavities develop at the root and continue to grow without treatment, it may result in tooth loss.
7 Signs You Have a Cavity
Tooth Sensitive to Sweets
According to the Journal of the American Dental Association, sensitivity to hot, cold, or even sweet foods is a symptom of early tooth decay and cavities. You may notice a lingering sensitivity when eating sweet foods or drinking sugary beverages.
A lingering discomfort is almost always a telltale sign there’s damage to your enamel and marks the beginning of a developing cavity in your tooth.
Tooth Sensitive to Hot & Cold
As we mentioned above, sensitivity to hot and cold is a common indicator that you have a cavity. As tooth enamel begins to wear down, it can affect the hard tissue layer beneath the enamel called dentin. Dentin contains a collection of microscopic hollow tubes.
If there isn’t enough tooth enamel to protect the dentin, hot and cold foods can irritate the nerve inside the tooth. Sticky or acidic foods can also affect the exposed dentin, creating the sensitivity you may experience.
Blood When Brushing
If a cavity forms between two teeth, you may notice blood while brushing your teeth. We know that’s the last thing you want to see when you spit out your toothpaste, so why does it happen? Gum tissue can grow into the space created by a recent cavity. Any time you brush over that space, you can cause the gum tissue to start bleeding.
Pain When Chewing
You may notice more pain while chewing as a cavity progresses and exposes the pulp of a tooth. Some people will start chewing on the side of their mouth that doesn’t have tooth pain. Constant chewing on the opposite side may also cause soreness when eating food. Difficulty chewing due to a tooth cavity is one of the last things you want to experience.
Teeth Starting To Chip & Crack
As your tooth decays, the outer enamel corrodes until the dentin layers of the inner tooth are exposed. As those layers are unprotected, the dead or dying pulp produces a pigment that makes your teeth look darker and increases the risk of chipping and cracking. It’s pivotal to see your dentist as soon as you notice your cavity to ensure you don’t damage your teeth. Fixing a chipped or cracked tooth is an expensive procedure that you can avoid.
Shifting of Teeth or New Gaps
Cavities in the back section of your teeth can worsen over time and cause your teeth to shift. In some more extreme scenarios, you may even notice that a gap has formed in your front teeth. The sudden development of shifting teeth or gaps means that a cavity is probably to blame.
White Spots on Teeth
The earliest warning sign of a forming cavity is the sudden appearance of white spots on the surface of your teeth. The white spots are caused by a lack of minerals on the surface of your teeth. If you notice these dots, you should seek treatment right away before it’s too late. Yes, a tad dramatic, but it’s true. A dentist can help reverse the damage to your teeth, especially when it’s so early in the cavity stage.
What Can You Do To Prevent a Cavity?
Practising good oral hygiene is the first step to preventing tooth decay and cavities. If you’re not keeping up with brushing and flossing, your cavities could result in requiring monumental fixes. For example, if you allow a cavity to worsen and affect the tissue within the tooth, you may need a root canal treatment. A root canal is an invasive procedure that may require more than one dental office visit and can be pricey to fix.
So, how do you prevent a cavity and avoid intense dental procedures?
- Brush with fluoride toothpaste after eating or drinking. Waiting 30 minutes after eating to brush is generally advised especially if the food that was consumed is acidic. You generally want to brush your teeth twice a day. Use dental floss to remove food particles between your teeth once daily.
- Visit your dentist regularly. Routine teeth cleanings and oral exams can help reduce your risk of cavities and prevent issues early on.
- Consider a fluoride treatment. Some dentists may recommend occasional fluoride treatments if they notice you aren’t getting enough through fluoride drinking water.
- Drink more water. Many public water supplies have fluoride, which can help reduce tooth decay.
- Avoid frequent snacking. Eating sugary foods and drinking beverages other than water can create acids that destroy your enamel. The more you snack, the more your teeth are under frequent attack.
- Eat healthy foods. You can find many healthy foods for your teeth and increase your saliva flow, such as fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Consider dental sealants. A sealant is a thin coating painted on teeth to protect them against cavities. It seals off grooves that tend to collect food and protects against plaque build-up.
- Antibacterial treatments. If you’re vulnerable to tooth decay because of a medical condition, your dentist might recommend an antibacterial mouth rinse and other treatments to help reduce the bacteria in your mouth.
When To See a Dentist
It’s paramount to make an appointment with your dentist as soon as you notice one or more cavity signs. A lingering toothache, sensitivity, bad breath, and tooth stains are some of the most common identifiers. Take action before the cavity grows.
You should see your dentist every six months and get routine X-rays to determine if there are any cavities or other dental problems. This way, your dentist can stop any issues before they worsen.
How Common Are Cavities?
According to Canada Health, 96% of adults have a history of cavities. Cavities are also very common in children. 57% of 6-11-year-olds and 59% of 12-19-year-olds have had one or more cavities.
Who Might Get a Cavity?
Cavities can develop at any age. However, those who don’t brush properly and often consume sugary foods or drinks are more prone to developing one or more cavities. Children are more likely to get them, but adults can have cavities that form around the fillings that were used to treat cavities from adolescence. Receding gums are also more prominent in adults, which can expose the lower parts of the teeth to plaque build-up.
What Are the Types of Cavities?
Tooth decay affects all layers of your teeth. It can take three years for a cavity to form, especially if your enamel is strong. As the decay progresses, it spreads to your dentine and pulp.
The common types of cavities include:
- Smooth surface: This is a slow-forming cavity that dissolves your tooth enamel. You can prevent (and even reverse) a smooth surface cavity with regular brushing, flossing, and dental cleanings.
- Pit and fissure decay: These cavities form on the top part of the tooth’s chewing surface and can also affect the front side of the back teeth. Pit and fissure decay often starts during the teenage years and progresses rapidly.
- Root decay: Adults with receding gums are more susceptible to root decay. As gum recession exposes the tooth’s root, it becomes vulnerable to plaque and acid. This type of cavity is incredibly difficult to prevent and treat.
What Causes Cavities?
Newsflash: If you have teeth, you’re at risk for cavities. However, properly caring for your teeth and gums can help decrease your chances.
There are specific causes that can increase the development of a cavity, such as:
- Sugary foods and drinks
- Poor dental hygiene
- A lack of fluoride
- Eating disorders
- Acid reflux disease
- Dry mouth
Don’t let a cavity ruin your smile. Our valued team at Fresh Dental can provide numerous services, such as dental implants, coloured fillings, crowns, teeth whitening, cleanings, and more! Make an appointment with us today.