How Can I Prevent Cavities?

Cavities are a big problem for you, your kids, and the rest of the people in the U.S. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that nearly 46% of kids between the ages of 2-19 have cavities, and 13% of them go untreated. More than 91% of adults over 20 have cavities, and 27% are untreated.  

What causes these cavities, and how can you prevent them? Dr. Henry Suarez at Healthy Dental Expressions in Palm Springs, Florida, wants you to understand how cavities develop, the first step in preventing them.

Cavities explained

Your teeth are protected by enamel, the hard, outer shell of your teeth. When enamel becomes damaged, a breach in your tooth’s protective armor develops. A cavity is one type of damage.

Cavities, also known as dental caries or tooth decay, are tiny holes in your teeth that develop when bacteria eat away at tooth enamel. If you don’t treat a cavity, it can grow larger and seriously threaten your dental and overall health.

Here’s how a cavity can develop.

Eating sugars and starches

When you eat, your teeth become coated in sugars and starches. Candy isn’t the only culprit. Even healthy foods like dairy products can create sugar that lingers in your mouth after you swallow. Particles stick to and between teeth, and the starches and sugars cover your teeth and gums.

Plaque forms

If you don’t brush your teeth soon after eating, the natural bacteria in your mouth feed on the sugars and starches, and they begin to form a sticky film on the surface of your teeth called plaque. 

Plaque seeps under your gum line, a hard place to reach with your toothbrush. If you don’t get rid of it, plaque slowly hardens and turns into tartar, a tough shield that covers bacteria.

Acid erodes

The acid in plaque starts to eat away at tooth enamel. As it erodes the surface, it creates tiny openings called cavities. Early on, you may not notice a cavity because it is too small to see. Only an X-ray can detect early cavities.

If you don’t treat a cavity, it grows larger and breaches the next layer of your teeth called the dentin. Dentin is a softer part of the tooth that contains tiny canals that run directly to the sensitive nerves inside. Dentin has no defense against decay. If your cavity reaches the dentin, you’ll probably feel pain.

If you ignore your cavity, it can progress to the next layer of your inner tooth, the pulp, where blood and nerves live; this is the life source of your tooth. If bacteria enters this chamber and reaches the tooth root, you can lose your tooth and damage your jawbone. To stop the destruction, you may need a root canal to clean out the decay and save the tooth.

Advanced tooth decay puts you at risk for other health conditions as the bacteria enter your bloodstream and infect other body parts. Gum disease and tooth decay are linked to heart valve damage and heart disease. 

Here’s how to prevent cavities

Here are steps you can take to prevent cavities from forming: 

If you suspect you have a cavity, you can schedule an appointment at Healthy Dental Expressions by calling 561-235-3839, or by using our online scheduling tool.

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