Ever wonder why you should go to the dentist every 6 months? And why you should have x-rays taken every year? The short answer is prevention from tooth decay. As your dental health team, it’s our role to help you ward off tooth decay by keeping your teeth and gums healthy. Tooth decay can range from a small pit to a large cavity causing an abscess and pain. This article will focus on the stages of decay, how cavities form, what your options are if you get a cavity, and most importantly, what you can do to prevent them.
How does tooth decay form?
Tooth decay forms due to several key players: bacteria, plaque, acid, and sugar. Our mouths contain millions of bacteria, the majority good but some bad, and that is completely normal. When you eat or drink anything with high sugar, the bacteria in our mouths will break down that sugar, and the byproduct is acid. If you’re consuming excess sugar day in and day out, this cycle can get out of control. The outer layer of your teeth (white enamel) will begin to erode due to the excess acid and a cavity may eventually form. If left untreated, the bacteria/acid can continue to erode into the inner layer, the dentin, and can potentially reach the nerve of your tooth, the pulp.
The best approach to limiting the damage of erosion is the following:
(1) Maintain a professional, thorough cleaning at your dentist every 6 months,
(2) Take check-up x rays every year,
(3) Brush twice a day with a fluoridated toothpaste,
(4) Floss at least once a day, and use a mouthrinse, and
(5) Limit your sugar intake by watching out for high sugar snacks and drinks, such as sodas, teas, candy, etc. That being said, eat/drink in moderation, one Coke or one pack of Pretzel M&M’s won’t necessarily cause cavities, but they shouldn’t be a regular part of your diet.
So you have a cavity…now what?
Once the outer enamel is breached and a cavity travels into the inside of the tooth, the best course of action is to place a filling to restore it back to normal. If the cavity extends to multiple parts of the tooth, or even worse, if it extends to the nerve, the treatment may involve either a crown or root canal. Sometimes, and thankfully not very often, the cavity is so extensive, the tooth cannot be saved and needs to be removed.
Prevention is key. Because cavities can progress so quickly, it’s so important to do whatever you can to prevent yourself from developing cavities in the first place.
If you think you may have a cavity or realizing that it’s time for your next professional cleaning and exam, call our office. The team at Vacca Family Dentistry is always ready to keep you on schedule and put your mind at ease. Give us a call anytime at (804) 739-9191.