Cavities are very common in both adults and children. In fact, tooth decay is the world’s second most prevalent disease, after the common cold. We hope that none of our patients ever have to experience the pain and inconvenience of a cavity. However, if you do get a cavity in your lifetime, it’s important to know what to expect. Cavities give many warning signs before progressing to the next stage. We’ve outlined the life cycle of a cavity, so that you can spot one developing, and prevent it from causing serious damage.
#1 The early signs of decay
Tooth decay is caused when enamel is worn down by acid in the mouth. Smoking, regularly consuming acidic drinks and sugary foods, and irregular dental check-ups all increase the likeliness of dental decay. When you don’t practice good oral hygiene, the sugars on your teeth build up, and bacteria begins to feed off them and produce acid. These bacteria, food particles and saliva combine to form plaque and dull spots on the surface of the tooth.
At this stage, so long as you practice regular cleaning and good oral hygiene, it’s fairly easy to get rid of this plaque and stop these dull spots from forming into a cavity.
#2 The damage of a tooth
The plaque starts to thin as the enamel wears away. Eventually this hole will go deep enough to break the enamel surface and expose the dentin underneath. This is when the hole officially becomes a cavity. From here, the tooth will decay more rapidly, and the cavity will get larger and deeper. Cavities at this stage usually aren’t painful. This is why regular check-ups are essential, as often you won’t know if a cavity is developing.
#3 The beginning of pain
After the tooth erodes the enamel, it starts to erode the dentin. This will bring the nerve of the tooth closer to the surface, and will make your tooth extremely sensitive. As soon as you feel discomfort you should visit your dentist. As long as the decay hasn’t gotten past all of the dentin, you can still repair the tooth with a filling.
#4 The start of infection
If food and bacteria get caught in a cavity, it can be difficult to get them out. If these food particles stay in the tooth for too long, it can lead to infection – of both the tooth and of the surrounding bone. As you can imagine, this is incredibly painful! If this happens you should visit your dentist immediately to clear up the infection. A root canal – or even tooth extraction – might have to be performed as a last resort.
#5 The final treatment
As you can see, it’s far better to get treated for a cavity early on. While small cavities can be easily dealt with, large ones require much more extensive treatment, and end up being more painful and expensive for you. The best way to prevent cavities is by sticking to a good oral hygiene routine, and by visiting your dentist regularly. If you are experiencing any pain, or if it’s about time for a checkup, book your appointment with Whistler Dental today.