This common dental problem goes by many different names. The terms cavities, caries, holes, and decay all have the same meaning: destructive bacteria have broken through the protective outer surface of your tooth (or teeth). This is problematic, of course, because the breakdown of the tooth can lead to pain, a deeper infection, or tooth loss. Fortunately, dental cavities can often be prevented, and Harrisonburg dentists say that arming yourself with the facts is the key.
Here’s what you should know about dental cavities:
- The bacteria that cause cavities typically live in the slimy film of plaque that coats your teeth and gums every day.
- Plaque bacteria must have the proper fuel (sugars/carbohydrates) and opportunity (time undisrupted by brushing and flossing) to produce enamel-destroying acids.
- Acids from foods or beverages, and acids from the stomach (think acid reflux or frequent vomiting) can also erode the surface of the enamel.
- Bacterial acids can attack the surface of the teeth for approximately 20 minutes following the consumption of carbohydrates. That’s one acid attack after another if you sip your soft drink or juice all afternoon!
- Colonies of plaque bacteria can be easily disrupted and inactivated with dental floss or a toothbrush.
- Swishing or rinsing with water can also help to eliminate plaque acids during times when brushing or flossing are not possible (such as a business lunch or when you’re having a snack on the go).
- Smokers are at an increased risk for cavities because the chemicals found in cigarettes can cause dry mouth, creating an environment that is more favorable to acid attacks and cavities.
- With regular dental care and early detection, small and medium-sized cavities can be repaired with dental fillings. Larger cavities may need to be repaired with dental crowns. Deeper cavities could require a root canal treatment or the tooth may need to be removed.
Learn more about cavity prevention and treatments by contacting the top dentists in Harrisonburg today.