Cavities – Get to Know Your Oral Health Foe

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    cavityThere’s no doubt about it, cavities are a nuisance that we can all do without. Having even a small cavity can impact our day to day lives. No matter how focused you may be, it is hard to concentrate at work when all you can think about is that throbbing ache in your mouth. Cavities also have a knack for keeping us up at night; tossing and turning, unable to sleep. And, if all that, wasn’t enough; cavities interfere with our ability to eat and drink. You can’t really enjoy that artisan dish of Mac and Cheese (a great source of calcium), when a sharp pain shoots through your teeth every time that you chew on that side of the mouth.

    Inevitably, most cavities end up with a trip to the dentist. Once you are seated in the chair, your dentist will deal with the cavity. He or she will use a drill to clean out the debris and accumulated decay in the tooth and then will proceed to place a filling inside the now empty space.

    Along with things like Acne, sinusitis and the common cold; cavities are an all too common affliction that the majority of us have to deal with, at one time or another. Yet, it does not have to be this way. There is no need to resign yourself to dealing with a lifetime of cavities. As annoying and damaging as cavities are, they are also highly preventable, in most cases. In America today, cavities and tooth decay have gotten out of hand, big-time. A lot of the blame goes to the diet of fast food, snack chips and cookies and candy that our kids (and those who are kids at heart) subsist on. The result of poor eating habits and even worse oral hygiene; cavities can develop almost anywhere on your teeth. But they thrive on the surface areas of your molars as well as between your teeth, close to the gum line. Poor oral hygiene leads to food particles and bacteria building up on your teeth. Plaque then develops and the acids that are produced attack the enamel (the hard outer surface) that acts as a shield on your teeth. Once the decay reaches the inside portion of the affected tooth, then trouble begins. As the enamel gradually dissolves, your tooth will, in all probability, start to hurt. Sometimes you’ll feel a dull, annoying ache while other times, the throbbing mushrooms into a sharp pain, that is hard to take.

    Even if you do brush and floss regularly, you still might not be doing enough to prevent the growth of cavities. Always use a toothpaste that contains fluoride, an ingredient which is vitally important to the health of your teeth. Your dentist can also give you fluoride treatments, which will help strengthen your enamel and fight tooth decay at the same time.

    We may not want to admit it, but improving our diet and nutritional habits is something that we all could probably use some work on. It is always smart to limit your intake of high carb foods and beverages and be aware that the usual suspects in criminal abuse of our bodies (snacks and candy etc.) are far from the only culprits to avoid. Many foods and beverages that you would not ordinarily think have a high sugar or carbohydrate content, in fact do contain these things. Always remember to carefully read the labels of products that you buy at the supermarket. Carbohydrates contain a variety of sugars and starches. When these carbs are assimilated or eaten by bacteria (Plaque), they produce acids that run all over your teeth, destroying them, like molten lava from a volcano.

    If you are feeling a little guilty about your daily oral health routine, please consider that many of the factors that because cavities are beyond your control. Just remember to continue brushing and flossing regularly and always consult a dentist, if cavities seem to be getting out of control.

    Defects on the surface of your teeth, such as grooves, crevices and cracks act as a receptacle for plaque and food debris. Odds are that these irregularities developed over time after your permanent teeth came in. Inherent tooth decay could also run in your family. Active decay-causing bacteria can easily be passed along from parent to child through normal everyday contact.  Even an innocent kiss could contaminate your child. It is not uncommon for tooth decay to be a multi-generational problem within the same family.

    Also Moms and Dads please, whatever you do, make sure that your child does not eat food out of their friends’ plate or share any utensils. Even the smallest bit of saliva can transfer bacteria to your son or daughter’s teeth. Drinking from another child’s sippy cup is also frowned upon. If your child is not prone to cavities, don’t let them contract cavity causing bacteria from their friends or kids at school.

    Tooth decay (cavities) occurs in stages. If the decay is only in the enamel and is treated in a timely manner, then there should be no long-term cavity issues. However, once the decay reaches the softer, dentin area of your tooth, the second layer; all bets are off. The innermost part of your tooth is the pulp; an area that contains the nerves and blood supply. When decay reaches the dentin or pulp area of your tooth, the likelihood is that things are getting much worse and you are going to start to feel some pain. Your tooth will become more sensitive to outside stimuli, like extremely hot or cold food and beverages. Even the feather-like, gentle touch from the tip of your tongue on the affected tooth, can set off waves of pain. Once a cavity reaches all the way to your pulp, the damage can be irreversible. Very serious infections, which produce pus and abscesses, can also develop inside your mouth, as a result of tooth decay.

    There are several different types of cavities that you may have to deal with, during your lifetime. Here’s a quick look at them…

    The most common type is CORONAL or SMOOTH SURFACE cavities Coronal tooth decay is preventable by practicing good oral hygiene, dedicated brushing and flossing. The slowest-growing and least serious of all cavities is Smooth surface decay, which can be reversed by your dentist if you catch it on time. Fluoride treatment will be your dentist’s first line of defense. Located on the chewing surfaces of your teeth and sometimes near the gum line, smooth surface cavities start off as a tiny white spot. It is here that the bacteria begin to attack the calcium in your tooth’s enamel. Coronal cavities affect both youngsters and adults.

    PIT and FISSURE cavities are in some ways similar to their smooth surface counterparts. They are located on the surfaces that you chew with, but these cavities tend to affect only the back teeth, mostly on the cheek side of your mouth.  Here’s why; the grooves that are located on the surface of your rear or back molars, are very, very narrow. It is difficult for your toothbrushes’ bristles to really get in there and clean the area adequately. PIT and FISSURE decay is a major cause for concern among teenagers. You can get these cavities in your twenties and thirties, but they usually start to develop during one’s teenage years.

    “ROOT DECAY ” is a serious issue for senior citizens, as well as for men and women who have dry mouth and saliva flow problems or people who are suffering from Periodontal Disease.

    ROOT CAVITIES key in on older folks with naturally receding gums or those whose gum tissue has been severely damaged by infection. Root decay occurs on the exposed surface of the root. It is exceedingly difficult to prevent and treat. When their protective enamel has been destroyed, the roots of your teeth are particularly prone to decay. Once the exposed root becomes inflamed, the pain from a cavity can be fairly intense. Cavities can be stubborn and even if treated, keep coming back. This is what is known as Recurrent tooth decay. Certain areas of your teeth are more likely to attract bacteria and food particles. Even if there is a crown or filling present, decay can and will form around them. Your dentist will then have to address the problem by treating the affected tooth or doing another filling, depending on the extent of the damage. Fillings are the “magic formula” that dentists use to rid your mouth of cavities. A companion piece on the wide variety of  dental fillings  that are available to fight cavities will be featured on in the near future.