From the time we are young, most of us are taught about the importance of brushing our teeth to prevent cavities. While your Puyallup cosmetic dentistry professionals will advocate for the additional benefits of brushing your teeth – including avoiding gum disease and preventing infection – the prevention of cavities is still important. Below is a guide to some of the top questions patients at our Puyallup cosmetic dentistry clinic have about cavities.
What is a cavity?
In the simplest terms, a cavity is a hole in your tooth caused by tooth decay. Bacteria in your mouth turns the sugars and starches you eat into acid. This acid, when combined with the bacteria, pieces of food, and saliva, begins to harden into something called plaque. If you don’t brush your teeth within 20 minutes of eating, the plaque will begin to build up, giving the bacteria and acid an opportunity to begin eating away at your tooth’s enamel, eventually causing cavities. A cavity on its own typically won’t hurt, or even be noticeable. However, that hole gives plaque a new place to burrow into, eventually eating away at your much more sensitive tooth pulp, leading to discomfort and pain. Notable signs that you have a cavity are typically tooth discoloration (first white spots or cracks, then dark spots) or sensitivity to hot or cold food and drinks. If you experience any of these symptoms, be sure to book an appointment with your Puyallup cosmetic dentistry clinic for a checkup before substantial tooth decay occurs.
Who gets cavities?
A lot of people associate cavities with childhood – and for good reason. According to the Center for Disease Control, up to 40% of children have what’s known as Early Childhood Caries (ECC) – the process by which enamel is broken down, leading to tooth decay and cavities – before the age of five. There are several reasons why ECC exists more prominently in some families than others, including diet, genetics and good oral health habits, including fluoride treatments. This is why it’s so important to schedule regular dental checkups from an early age at your Puyallup cosmetic dentistry clinic. However, adults are also prone to cavities. 92% of adults aged 20 to 64 have dental caries on their permanent teeth – meaning decay happened after early childhood. In fact, many older adults and seniors are seeing tooth rot and decay because many of the advances in oral health that exist today simply weren’t accessible during their youth.
How do you treat a cavity?
During a checkup at your Puyallup cosmetic dentistry clinic, your dentist will carefully examine your teeth, including prodding them to test for sensitivity or soft spots. If they suspect a non-visible cavity, they may order an x-ray to determine its size and location. From there, your Puyallup cosmetic dentist will remove the decayed part of the tooth and replace it with a filling. Ask about composite resin fillings, which are specially colored to match your existing tooth color for a more subtle, natural look.
What if I don’t treat my cavity early enough?
If your cavity isn’t caught at an early stage, it will begin to eat away at your pulp layer. Not only will this cause greater pain, too much decay may make you ineligible for a regular filling. Your Puyallup cosmetic dentistry professionals may recommend a crown instead, which is a prosthetic place directly over the existing tooth to increase its strength. Crowns are also useful in the later stages of life, when a regular filling has broken down. The good news is, crowns are easier to install than ever, thanks to CEREC 3-D imaging technology for same-day procedures, as opposed to the previous method that required multiple visits to your Puyallup cosmetic dentistry clinic. If your tooth decay continues deeper into your tooth, you may develop an abscess and require a root canal, or endodontics.
The bright spot when it comes to cavities is that tooth decay and ECC are actually on the downswing. New advancements in oral health and a better understanding as to proper brushing and cleaning habits are helping millions of Americans from having to pay an extra visit to their Puyallup cosmetic dentistry practice. To help create an anti-cavity oral health plan, talk to your Puyallup cosmetic dentistry professionals, especially for children.