What is cavity?

A cavity is a hole in the tooth caused by tooth decay.  Cavities will increase in size and impact over time.  If left untreated, cavities can result in severe toothache, infection, abscess, and tooth loss.  Once a cavity reaches the pulp of the tooth, it will require more extensive treatment.

What causes cavities?

Cavities are caused by plaque, which forms as a result of naturally occurring bacteria multiplying in the mouth and adhering to the teeth.  Plaque is cultivated by heavy consumption of sugar, starch, and carbohydrates, which combine with saliva and harden in the mouth.  The bacteria metabolize the sugar in this material into acid, which can dissolve the layers of the tooth.

Who can get cavities?

Cavities are some of the world’s most common health issues, but certain characteristics can place people at particular risk.  Children and teenagers are more prone to cavities than adult, and they are also more common in lower-income families, senior citizens, and those with diabetes.  Environmental and behavioral factors such as un-fluoridated water, radiation therapy, drug and alcohol use, and sugar consumption can increase incidence of cavities.

Treatment and prevention

Your dental provider will examine your teeth and use X-rays to locate any cavities. Your dentist will then clean and seal the cavity with a filling.

Cavities can be prevented by brushing and flossing your teeth daily, visiting your dentist regularly, eating nutritious and balanced meals, avoiding carbonated beverages, and supplementing with fluoride. You might also consider discussing further options with your dentist such as a dental sealant, which can protect your back teeth in particular against the bacteria that cause cavities.