Let’s face it. Life is busy. And for that reason, we can be tempted to ignore the oral pain we experience when taking a sip of cold water or biting into an ice cream cone. But the truth is, if you are feeling this type of discomfort, you shouldn’t put it on the back burner. Though some people have sensitive teeth, this general sensitivity to cold (or hot) foods and beverages can signify a deeper problem such as cavities. If a hole isn’t treated promptly, it can lead to further pain and discomfort; it will continue to grow in size and cause more problems for you down the road.
What You Need to Know About These 3 Types of Dental Cavities
If you are feeling some tooth sensitivity or other tooth pain, there are some things you need to know. And to start, let’s make sure you understand the three different types of caries (cavities). Because after all, not all cavities are alike.
1. Smooth-surface Cavities
Everyday eating and drinking can lead to tooth decay on the sides of your teeth. And though you might not realize it, even the smooth sides of your teeth can get cavities due to sticky plaque. The best way to avoid this type of cavity is to brush twice a day for two minutes at a time (after meals whenever possible), and to floss once a day to remove any food debris that has become lodged between your teeth.
2. Pit and Fissure Cavities
Try taking a look in the mirror. You will likely see that your back teeth have grooves in them, referred to as pits and fissures. These cavities occur on the top of your teeth, where you chew. These grooves help you chew and tear your food before swallowing, thus lessening the risk of choking. But, food and oral bacteria can quickly become stuck in those grooves and lead to cavities. So, just as with smooth-surface cavities, make sure you are brushing and flossing regularly to keep those pearly whites clean.
3. Root cavities
This type of cavity is the most serious since the root is so important in keeping the tooth healthy. And, since roots don’t have enamel to protect them, cavities can grow more rapidly. To avoid root cavities to the best of your ability, drink plenty of water and brush your teeth gently, twice a day. A dry mouth increases your risk of a root cavity, so drinking water not only helps wash away food debris, but it keeps you hydrated too.
Common Causes of a Cavity
Cavities are caused by many things, but mostly from bacteria in your mouth, frequent snacking on sugary foods, consuming sugary drinks, and not brushing and flossing your teeth frequently enough. The plaque forms, attacks, and then leads to the destruction of your teeth.
There are some risk factors that can make you more susceptible to the development of a cavity:
- Tooth location: Tooth decay is more likely to occur in your back teeth.
- Sticky foods: Foods that cling to your teeth, such as honey, sugar, dried fruit, milk, cake, cookies, and chips, are more likely to cause dental caries than foods that your saliva can easily wash away.
- Snacking and sipping: If you are a frequent snacker or like to sip on sugary beverages throughout the day, you are more likely to develop a cavity.
- Infant feeding at bedtime: Though it can feel like the easy thing to do, especially when you need to soothe or console a cranky infant, giving babies bedtime bottles can cause baby bottle tooth decay.
- Inadequate or infrequent brushing: To help keep those cavities away, make sure you are brushing your teeth at least twice a day, for two minutes at a time, with a soft-bristled toothbrush.
- Lack of fluoride: Fluoride helps to reverse the earliest stages of tooth damage. So, make sure you are getting enough in your diet, and if not, ask your dentist about a fluoride treatment during your next visit.
- Age: Cavities tend to be more common in young children, teenagers, and older adults.
- Dry mouth: When your mouth doesn’t produce enough saliva, it loses the ability to wash away food particles that are left in your mouth after eating. Those food particles can get trapped between the teeth and gums, leading to tooth decay.
- Worn fillings or dental appliances: No dental device will last forever. Over time, it will break down or develop rough edges, allowing plaque to develop more easily.
- Eating disorders: Anorexia and bulimia can contribute to dental erosion, which leads to cavities.
- Heartburn: Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) can cause stomach acid to flow into your mouth (reflux), wearing away your dental enamel and causing significant tooth damage.
Signs & Symptoms of Cavities
Though the signs and symptoms of cavities can vary from person to person, and depending on their extent and location, it’s important to know what to look for. As tooth decay worsens, it may cause signs and symptoms such as:
- Tooth sensitivity, especially when drinking something sweet, hot, or cold.
- Toothache, spontaneous pain, or pain that occurs without any apparent cause.
- Visible holes in your teeth.
- Staining on the surface of a tooth.
- Pain when you chew or bite down.
Your dentist will often diagnose a cavity based on your symptoms and after an oral examination. Treatment will generally consist of fillings, crowns, or bridges. However, more severe dental caries may require complex dental treatment such as root surface mineralization, a root canal, or a tooth extraction.
Preventing a Future Cavity
After treating you for your cavity, your dentist will likely discuss with you the various ways to prevent a future cavity:
- Brush with fluoride toothpaste after eating or drinking and at least two times per day.
- Rinse your mouth with a fluoridated mouthwash at least once per day.
- Visit your dentist at least once every six months.
- Consider dental sealants.
- Drink plenty of water throughout the day to stay hydrated and rinse food particles away.
- Avoid frequent snacking and sipping, especially on sugary items.
- Eat tooth-healthy foods such as fiber-rich fruits and vegetables, cheese and other dairy products, and sugarless chewing gum.
- Consider fluoride treatments, especially if you don’t have access to fluoridated tap water.
One of the best ways to prevent a cavity is to visit your dentist at least once every six months. So, if you are overdue for a dental examination and cleaning, now is the time to request an appointment. The Staley Dental team in Boise, Idaho, looks forward to seeing you.