What is a Cavity?

What is a Cavity

Of course everyone has heard of a cavity — it’s probably one of the first things you associate with a toothache or a trip to the dentist. When you’re a kid, or even a grownup, you know it’s something bad that you do not want.

By learning more about what cavities are, you can learn how to recognize, prevent, and treat them if they do occur. With the following information and a proactive approach, you can help give your child a healthy smile for years to come.

What is a Cavity?

Cavities, also called dental caries, are holes in the teeth. These holes are basically caused by bacteria, which release acids into the tooth as a waste product. This acid begins to break down the enamel and dentin, the top two layers of the tooth, forming a hole that will get bigger unless it’s fixed.

Considered one of the most common health problems in the world, cavities can happen to anyone at any age. While cavities to permanent adult teeth are the threat most people worry about, cavities can also affect baby teeth and cause big problems if they develop.

Causes of Cavities

The primary cause of cavities is bacteria that live on the surface of the tooth and release acid. The acid itself is a byproduct of the starchy and sugary materials that are often found on the surface of teeth from the food we eat. Factors that can increase the chances for cavities to develop include:

  • Eating a lot of sugary snacks and drinks
  • Not brushing and flossing, which lets the material stay on the tooth for bacteria to eat
  • Having naturally thin enamel
  • Not getting regular dentist appointments

Cavities almost always get worse when they begin to develop and typically don’t go away on their own, so it’s important to recognize the signs and take action as quickly as possible if you think there may be a cavity.

How Do You Know If You Have a Cavity?

There are several different warning signs that a cavity is developing on a tooth. These signs can include:

  • A visible black spot on your child’s tooth
  • Pain or sensitivity
  • Staining or discoloration
  • Visible hole or pit
  • Food getting stuck to the surface of the tooth

Unfortunately, in many cases, it is possible to have a cavity without any visible signs. Often, many people do not have pain or symptoms until the cavity causes infection and buildup of pus, known as an abscess. Having a comprehensive prevention and treatment plan can help prevent cavities from developing and worsening if they do occur.

Tips for Preventing Cavities

Although there is no way to 100% stop a cavity from developing, there are still many ways to prevent cavities.

  1. Good oral hygiene is very, very important. This means brushing twice a day and flossing at least once a day.
  2. Eat a healthy diet. Sodas and sugary snacks give bacteria the food they need to grow and create tooth-eating acid. Limit sugar and stay away from sugary drinks, which are soda and even juices, especially before bed.
  3. Come to see your dentist at least every six months to make sure that nothing is developing.

Sometimes despite our best efforts, cavities still develop. While there is no way to completely get rid of a cavity, a dentist can help you develop an effective treatment plan.

What Do You Do If You Have a Cavity

Call your dentist to schedule an appointment right away if there are any signs of a cavity. For children, a pediatric dentist can take steps, including an evaluation and images, to confirm that there is a cavity and assess how far along it is. Depending on the severity and size of the cavity, your child may undergo one or more of the following dental treatment methods:

  • Dental sealants to reinforce enamel
  • Dental fillings to stabilize the tooth and stop the cavity from progressing
  • Root canal to save a severely damaged or infected tooth

In the most extreme cases, baby tooth extraction to remove a damaged baby tooth that is causing severe pain or disrupting oral health may be needed.

Cavity treatment for children should always be connected to good habits for preventing future cavities. A combination of good oral hygiene and healthy eating with seeing the dentist regularly is key. Dentists can also recommend measures like fluoride treatment and instructions on proper brushing and flossing techniques to help lower the chances of developing cavities even more.

Keep Your Family’s Teeth Healthy with the Help of AC Pediatric Dentistry

Going to the dentist can be scary — we get it. But it should be fun! Whether it’s care for baby teeth, big kid teeth, oral surgery, or orthodontics, our team of specialized pediatric dentists makes the experience memorable while teaching you how to encourage healthy habits and good hygiene for lifelong smiles. Call us today or request an appointment online. We can’t wait to meet you!