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What Causes Cavities

Tooth with dental caries and close-up view of microbes which cause cavities

Cavities. The word alone is enough to bring images of dental drills and fillings and pain to your mind. But what are cavities and why do those pesky things cause so much trouble? Cavities are quite common and must be diagnosed and treated by a dentist. Never try to treat a cavity at home, as that will only make the issue worse. Oftentimes, to get an understanding of the extent of a cavity, the dentist will need to take x-rays.

What are Cavities?

Cavities are areas of decay on a person’s tooth. This decay occurs when plaque, a film of bacteria that’s constantly forming over your teeth, is given sugary foods and drinks to feed off of. This is often a result of poor dental habits. When the bacteria feeds off of the sugars in your mouth it releases an acidic by-product that slowly eats away at your tooth creating a small hole where decay sets in.

Types of Cavities

There are three categories of categories, which can affect all ages of individuals.

Coronal cavities are some of the most common. These are typically found between teeth or on the surface of teeth.

Recurrent decay is cavities that occur around existing fillings. This happens because these areas tend to accumulate plaque more than other areas in the mouth.

Root cavities are most commonly found in older people. As individuals age, their tooth roots get exposed when enamel wears away and gums recede.

Who can get cavities?

Cavities are common for everyone from adults to children, however, where they occur often differs. For example, children tend to get cavities on the chewing surface of their teeth. Adults, on the other hand, can develop cavities along their gum line, as it recedes due to age. When an adult’s gums recede their tooth roots can be exposed to the decay, which may require a root canal in the long run.

Many older adults forego preventative dental treatment, which can also increase their chances of getting cavities.

How do I prevent cavities?

There are several things you can do to prevent cavities. The most important thing to do is to brush your teeth twice a day for two minutes and floss daily. Additionally, it’s crucial that you pay attention to your diet. Cut out all simple carbs, which can be found in white bread and pasta, among other foods. These simple carbs break down into sugar. Second, avoid sugars and processed foods. These foods aren’t just bad for your teeth, they’re bad for your entire body.

Getting regular dental cleanings is also an important part of preventing cavities. Regular cleanings help remove the tough tartar that brushing doesn’t remove. It also helps get rid of stains and bacteria that can live deep in your gums.

Sealants are another option that can be used to reduce the chance of getting cavities. Sealants are a thin layer of plastic that is painted over the tooth’s chewing surface. They’re most commonly used on premolars and molars, as that is where a lot of decay tends to occur. They can be applied to teeth that do not have cavities and are commonly used on children, although many adults also use them.

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