Adults tend to think cavities and fillings are just childhood problems. But the truth is that cavities can strike at any age. Even though tooth enamel is one of the hardest substances in the human body, it’s vulnerable to several causes of decay. Once decay sets in, you could experience discomfort, sensitivity, and outright pain. Let’s take a look at what causes cavities, the cavity treatments that are offered at our Long Island cosmetic dentistry practice, and how you can avoid cavities in the first place.
What Causes Cavities?
Cavities are the result of tooth decay, which is the destruction of tooth structure. The most common culprit is a combination of poor dental habits and sugary or starchy foods – such as bread, milk, soda, fruit, and candy. When particles of these foods are left on the teeth, the natural bacteria in the mouth digests the food bits and produces acid. This acid dissolves the enamel on your teeth, creating holes known as cavities. The process is made worse in cases of plaque build-up, which is when a sticky film of bacteria, acid, food debris, and saliva constantly clings to your teeth.
How Common Are Cavities in Adults?
We often think children are the most prone to cavities, but adults are at risk as well. Anyone with a “sweet tooth” and insufficient brushing and flossing practices will likely get a cavity. It’s estimated that one in five adults, or 20 percent, has one or more untreated cavities.
Also, it’s common for people over age 50 to get cavities from tooth-root decay due to gum disease and gingival recession that exposes tooth roots to plaque. Adults can also develop cavities around the edges of older fillings that have weakened or fractured.
What Are the Symptoms of a Cavity?
If you have tooth decay, you might experience:
- Sensitivity to sweet, hot, or cold foods or drinks
- Visible pits or holes in your teeth
If you have these symptoms, you should schedule an appointment to see your dentist. During a dental exam, cavities can be diagnosed by probing the surface of the tooth, which will feel soft, and with X-rays.
How Are Cavities Treated?
Depending on the extent of tooth decay, a filling or a dental crown might be recommended. If decay is minimal, the decayed portion of the tooth is removed and replaced with a filling. Today, most fillings are made of composite resin, which are durable and natural-looking.
If the decay is more involved and there isn’t enough healthy tooth structure to support a filling, you may need a crown. To prepare for a crown, the decayed or weakened area of the tooth is removed and a crown is placed over the entire tooth. Modern dental crowns are usually made of porcelain, which provides a strong, color-matched restoration.
In severe cases, the decay can reach the nerve or pulp, causing infection deep inside the tooth. In these circumstances, root canal therapy will be needed. The entire center of the tooth is removed along with the decayed portion of the tooth, and the roots are filled with a sealing material. If necessary, a crown can be placed over the filled tooth.
How Can I Avoid Getting Cavities?
You can help prevent tooth decay and cavities by following these simple tips:
- Brush twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste
- Floss between your teeth every day
- Eat healthy meals and limit snacking
- Ask about the use of supplemental fluoride and dental sealants
- Get regular dental checkups and cleanings
Learn More about Cavities Treatment
At Smiles on Broadway, we always take the most conservative approach, preserving natural tooth structures whenever possible. If you think you have a cavity or would like to replace old fillings or crowns, schedule an appointment to see Dr. Katz at your convenience.