Cavities, also known as a form of tooth decay, affect millions of people in the United States. Anyone who has teeth can suffer from tooth decay, but it’s most commonly found in children, teenagers, and older adults. Cavities can be caused by bacteria in the mouth, sugary foods and drinks, and poor oral hygiene. Tiny openings, or holes, develop in the hard surfaces of the teeth and remain there permanently as they expand. The longer cavities go untreated, the more they expand and negatively affect deeper layers of the teeth.
One of the first signs of tooth decay is untreated plaque on the teeth. Plaque is a clear sticky film that covers the teeth, and typically forms when one eats lots of sugary and starchy foods. When one fails to clean the teeth properly, bacteria start feeding on the sugar and starch. The longer plaque goes untreated, it develops into a thick layer called calculus, which can be found under or above the gumline and acts as a shield for bacteria.
Plaque starts to attack the teeth as time goes on because the acids it holds removes the minerals from the tooth’s outer enamel. Once the acids eat away at the outer layer, they then travel to the layer beneath, which is a softer layer called dentin. Once the acids have deteriorated the dentin layer, they move to the inner tooth layer called pulp, which houses nerves and blood vessels. The pulp then swells up and becomes irritated after coming in contact with all of the bacteria. Since the swelling can’t expand inside of the tooth, the nerves become pressed, which causes lots of pain.
Not everyone shares the same symptoms as cavities begin to form and develop. In the early stages, a patient may not have any symptoms at all. However, as the cavity enlarges there may be toothaches, tooth sensitivity, pain while eating or drinking, visible holes, brown or black staining, or pain when biting down on something.
Because cavities and tooth decay are very common, it’s easy to be dismissive about the serious health risks that could develop. Complications in cavities can cause pain, tooth abscess, swelling or pus around the tooth, broken teeth, chewing issues, and teeth shifting position after tooth loss. The more severe cases of cavities can cause unbearable pain, weight loss from difficulty eating, tooth loss, and bacterial infections that cause tooth pus.
Because cavities and tooth decay are very common in children, it’s vital that children get dental treatment immediately before serious complications affect their eating, talking, socializing, sleeping, and learning. If no action is taken, complications could lead to emergency room visits and hospitalization that could’ve been prevented in the initial stages.
At McBride Dental, we believe in saving our patients’ teeth and keeping them healthy for a lifetime. To avoid cavities and tooth decay, it’s imperative for our patients to maintain regular dental checkups so that we can diagnose and treat any oral issues in their preliminary stages. Part of our recommended preventative care is that patients brush and floss on a daily basis, maintain a healthy diet, and inquire about dental sealants and fluoride treatment. If you’re concerned about potential cavities and tooth decay, call our office at 760-471-1003 to schedule an appointment.