What Are Cavities and What Causes Them?

What Are Cavities?

Unfortunately, cavities are a common dental health issue that many people face at some point in their lifetime. Children and teenagers are the age groups that are most likely to develop cavities, but anyone with teeth is at risk. Even young children who are just starting to grow teeth can develop cavities without proper care.

While cavities aren’t classified as a severe condition, not correctly treating them can lead to more significant dental concerns and even illnesses.

To ensure that you are taking proper care of your teeth, it’s important to understand what cavities are and how you can prevent them. Avoiding cavities can protect your smile and save you considerable time and money.

What Is a Cavity?

In the simplest of terms, cavities refer to the decay of your teeth. Decay occurs when the enamel softens, and bacteria settle into the crevices in the teeth. Cavities cause permanent damage that can only be treated with a proper dental filling. Fast detection is essential in making sure that the cavity doesn’t grow larger and impact even more of the surface area of the tooth.

What Causes Cavities?

Many factors can play a role in the cause of cavities. Common influences include:

  • Sugary foods and drinks are the leading cause of cavities. The sugar from the foods settles on the teeth and creates bacteria that break down the enamel.
  • Certain illness or heredity may make you more prone to cavities but does not mean that you can’t do certain things to help prevent them.
  • Frequent eating can lead to more exposure to the teeth. While most healthy diets insist on eating more often, sometimes people forget that this means more brushing is necessary, too.
  • Receding gum lines also expose teeth to the likeliness of cavity development. Once the roots of the teeth are exposed, they are susceptible to plaque and buildup.

Symptoms of Cavities

It’s always important to pay close attention to your oral health. Even small changes can be a sign of an issue. Common symptoms of cavities include:

  • A toothache
  • Pain when eating, biting or chewing
  • Visible discoloration
  • Sensitivity to hot or cold
  • Developing holes or pits

Of course, sometimes people don’t experience any symptoms at all and that’s why it’s imperative to have regular check-ups with a dentist to take a closer look.

Risk Factors of Cavities

Virtually anybody can develop a cavity, but certain situations increase the likeliness of a cavity forming in your mouth. Risk factors include:

  • Young children and infants are the most at-risk for developing cavities due to nighttime feeding. Usually, parents have already helped their child brush and floss before feeding, and then the formula or milk settles on the teeth all night long. This is the perfect equation for cavity development.
  • Younger and older individuals are at higher risk due to poor or failing dental habits.
  • Eating disorders: regular regurgitation of food means that more particles and acid are settling on the teeth over a long period. Cavities can form from the build-up of bacteria.
  • Acid reflux and heartburn can also be a culprit for cavities. The consistent exposure of stomach acid in the mouth can leave teeth vulnerable to cavity development.
  • A consistent dry mouth can also pose a risk. Saliva actually helps naturally wash away food particles, and without it, food and other bacteria are more likely to settle in the pits of the teeth and lead to decay.
  • Certain medications can also leave teeth vulnerable to wearing down and the eroding of enamel.
  • Old dental fillings can break down and leave the teeth exposed to more erosion.
  • Poor brushing technique can leave teeth improperly cleaned and thus more likely to develop cavities over time.

7 Ways to Prevent Cavities

While cavities are incredibly common, they are also 100 percent preventable. If you want to avoid cavities altogether then follow these prevention steps:

  • Participate in regular dental check-ups (at least twice per year).
  • Avoid sugary foods and eat a balanced diet.
  • Floss and brush daily.
  • Use fluoride toothpaste for extra protection.
  • Do not use an old or worn toothbrush.
  • Get sealants on teeth that are pitted.
  • Begin good oral hygiene early with young children.

Overview

Oral health is just as important as physical health. Make sure you are doing all that you can to avoid the development of cavities.

If you suspect you may have a cavity, then you should consult your dentist right away. Make dental health a priority so you can have a healthy, bright smile for years to come.

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