Cavities and Tooth Decay

Tooth model for education in laboratory

When decay goes unchecked in the human mouth, damaged areas will form on the surface of your teeth. This damage comes in the forms of holes or tiny openings in your teeth known as cavities. There are a variety of things that can lead to the development of these points of damage, but all of them ultimately come back to bacteria that cause decay. As one of the most frequently seen health problems in the world, they can appear in anyone of any age who has teeth. Left untreated, these simple points of decay can get larger and dig deeper into your teeth.

What Symptoms Are Associated With Dental Cavities?

Since cavities can appear anywhere in your mouth, and to varying degrees, there is a range of symptoms that can indicate that you have one. The most common symptoms associated with cavities include the following:

  • Spontaneous pain centering on your teeth or gums, occasionally radiating out to surrounding areas.
  • Temperature sensitivity in your teeth.
  • Painful reactions when eating something sugary or acidic.
  • Visible pitting or the appearance of holes in your teeth
  • White, brown, or black staining appearing on your teeth
  • Pain resulting from pressure applied to your teeth, such as when chewing

Left untreated, your cavities can result in significant pain, the formation of abscesses, and the ultimate need to have the tooth extracted. While there are multiple steps on the way to losing your tooth, you can halt them in their tracks by avoiding cavities altogether.

What Causes Cavities and Tooth Decay?

The primary cause of cavities is tooth decay. As a gradual process, there are multiple stages to the creation of the cavity. Below we’ll cover the typical steps that occur during the development and growing severity of a cavity.

  • Formation of Plaque – Plaque is a tacky transparent film that grows over the surface of your teeth. Sugars and starches are primary drivers of plaque, but any food can cause it to appear if you aren’t properly maintaining your teeth. The plaque that remains on your teeth can harden into tartar, appearing both above and below the gum line.
  • Plaque Acid Begins Damaging Teeth – Bit by bit, the acid produced by plaque begins wearing down at the surface of the tooth. Over time tiny openings begin to form, eventually becoming severe enough to let the acid get past the enamel and to the softer dentin underneath. The porous nature of dentin means that this is where sensitive teeth start.
  • Growing Tooth Destruction – Eventually, the advancing decay will begin to destroy all aspects of your tooth, ultimately getting down to the sensitive pulp where blood vessels and nerve live. The bacteria will initially irritate the pulp, causing it to swell painfully. Eventually, this can advance the formation of abscesses.

If you’re experiencing symptoms associated with tooth decay, it’s time to reach out to your dental care provider. Dental cavities are one of the most frequently seen oral health concerns in the world, but they’re also imminently treatable if you catch them early enough. Call for an appointment today.

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