“Look, no cavities!” is a time-worn phrase that we all hope to exclaim every time we leave the dentist. But what is a cavity? Is it caused just by eating candy and not brushing well enough or is it more intrinsic than that? A cavity is actually a name for a state of disease in the oral cavity, and a little-known fact is that it’s also transferable, like from mother to child.
Cavities can occur anywhere on the teeth. That means cavities can happen on the tips of molars, the surfaces you see on your front teeth, behind your teeth, and even in between your teeth. There are specific bacteria associated with cavitous lesions. Streptococcus mutans is one of the bacteria that you can transfer through saliva. If someone with decay introduces this bacteria through saliva to a person who doesn’t, it can set the stage for tooth decay in that person. This is a very important reason to see your local dentist if you think you have a cavity.
Symptoms that you have a cavity include pain or sensitivity to sweets, pain when chewing, general toothache, or the visible detection of decay on your tooth. You may also exhibit pus, a bad taste in your mouth, or bad breath.
How Does the Dentist Determine If There Is a Cavity?
Have you ever wondered how your dentist determines whether you have a cavity or not, especially when you don’t experience any pain or can’t see it? There are two diagnostic tools the dental team uses to diagnose a cavity. The first is through radiographs, or X-rays. A radiograph is the only way to determine interdental cavities, the ones in between tooth contacts. A radiograph will also show radiolucencies in a tooth that is exhibiting a cavity. Your X-ray is something the dental team can show you to help you understand the location and extent of your cavities.
Through clinical examination, a cavity may appear as a dark spot or hole in the enamel of your tooth. Some cavities are superficial, but some may go deep to the pulp of the tooth, often requiring a root canal. When the dentist probes their explorer into the spot, it will stick if it is, in fact, a cavity. If the explorer doesn’t stick, it’s more likely a stain in the pit or groove of your tooth. Remember, untreated cavities will only get worse with time.
What Can I Do to Avoid Cavities?
Your diet is one contributing factor to cavities. Frequent consumption of hard, sticky foods or sugary carbonated drinks dramatically increases your risk for getting cavities. A bit of advice is that if you indulge in sugary drinks, it’s best to drink it all at once instead of prolonged sipping through the day or chase it with some water. A diet consisting of water, nuts, and vegetables is a healthy choice to reduce cavities.
Poor Oral Hygiene
Naturally, good oral hygiene is another contributing factor. Brushing for two minutes at least twice a day with your toothbrush angled 45 degrees toward your gum line is the preferred method for most adults. Flossing is also an important habit that should be done at least once a day and in a C-shaped flossing technique under the gum line to ensure you are hugging around the curve of your teeth and cleaning it of all trapped food and biofilm. This correct method of flossing will reduce your risk of interdental cavities and halitosis. Rinsing with a fluoridated rinse twice daily is also recommended.
Your saliva may be the most essential factor in keeping cavities at bay. A dry mouth is a breeding ground for cavity-forming bacteria. If you experience dry mouth, it’s important to talk to your dentist about it. Hydrating rinses such as Biotene or hydrating lozenges may be a good option for you. Lack of saliva flow may be caused by systemic illnesses, frequent mouth breathing, radiation, allergies, and medications. Finding ways to balance your salivary gland is one of the most critical steps you can take to see fewer cavities in your future.
FL2 and Fluoride Treatments
FL2 is a fancy dentist code for fluoride treatment. Specifically, an office can add a fluoride varnish to the enamel of your teeth to keep them healthy and better protected from potential cavities. While many patients might associate fluoride treatments with children and young teenagers, the truth is that people of any age can benefit from fluoride! Speak to your dentist about if you’re getting enough fluoride in your daily dental hygiene routine and if FL2 might be right for you.
Sealants are arguably one of the most effective methods available for long-term cavity prevention. When a sealant is applied, the dentist paints a thin coating on the chewing surfaces of your molars. This coating quickly dries, hardens, and forms a powerful protective shield to keep your back teeth safe from cavities for years to come. With the right kind of attention and care, your sealants can last for up to 10 years! And, like fluoride treatments, sealants aren’t just for young people. Everyone can benefit from having sealants applied, and they’re a terrific way to help keep yourself cavity free long into the future.
It’s never fun when you’re in the chair, and your dentist tells you that they’ve found a cavity. Sometimes brushing and flossing just isn’t enough to keep you cavity free. That’s when you need the help of a dental expert. We’ve listed just some of the ways you can prevent cavities from forming, but the best thing you can do is talk to your local dentist. Schedule your appointment with Meadowmont Dentistry today to put together an airtight oral hygiene plan to keep your mouth clean and free of cavities.