What is Tooth Decay & How to Prevent Cavities

Fuquay Varina dentistAside from teeth cleanings and checkups, tooth decay and cavities are the most common issue we help our patients with. Our patients are often surprised to find they have tooth decay and cavities and want to know how they can better prevent these issues and improve their dental health. If you have similar concerns, our Fuquay Varina dentist is sharing some tips that will help you avoid tooth decay.

What is Tooth Decay?

Tooth decay damage to your tooth’s enamel, which is the hard material that makes up the exterior of the tooth. If decay is left untreated, dental cavities, called caries, grow to form holes in the enamel and dentin, which is the softer layer under the enamel. Without treatment from a dentist, cavities can cause pain and lead to the tooth breaking, an infection in the gum, and even tooth loss.

Causes of Tooth Decay and Cavities

There are millions of bacteria residing in our mouths at almost any time. Some are necessary and beneficial but the majority are not. The bacteria combines with food and beverage particles and residue to form plaque, a thin, sticky coating on the teeth. While tooth brushing removes plaque, if it’s left, the bacteria will feed on the sugar and starch you consume, which then produces an acidic substance. This acid is what eats through the minerals on your enamel leading to decay and eventually cavities.

A diet high in sugar will speed up the loss of minerals in the enamel and lead to development of decay and cavities, particularly:

  • Sodas and sugar-sweetened beverages;
  • Candy and sugared chewing gum;
  • Citrus fruits which contain both fructose that feed bacteria and are high in acids which can weaken enamel;
  • Bread as it breaks down into starch and adheres to teeth easily;

Also, some people may be more likely to experience tooth decay due to:

  • Chronic dry mouth
  • Genetics
  • Age
  • Lack of fluoride in tap water
  • Medication
  • Smoking and tobacco products

Signs of Tooth Decay and Cavities

Without an exam from your dentist, you may not know if you have early stages of tooth decay or a cavity until the cavity is severe. However, if you see a white spot on your tooth, this may be a sign the enamel has lost minerals and you can take steps to repair the damage. On the other hand, a visible hole or black spot on the tooth is a cavity that needs to be filled. No matter what, you should bring your concerns up to a dentist.

Other signs of decay or a cavity include:

  • Tooth pain
  • Tooth sensitivity to sugar or hot or cold temperatures
  • Staining on the tooth’s surface
  • Facial swelling, which is a sign of an abscess

How to Prevent Cavities and Decay

The best way to prevent tooth decay and stop cavities from forming is through good oral hygiene. At home, this involves brushing twice a day and flossing daily, while avoiding tobacco as well as foods and drinks that contain sugar, especially soda and sugary gum. Instead, drinking water and chewing sugar-free gum will stimulate saliva production and keep your mouth rinsed which allow for enamel remineralization and prevent plaque build up between brushing and flossing. You can also use fluoride mouthwash to help strengthen your enamel.

Schedule a Checkup with Our Fuquay Varina Dentist

If you suspect tooth decay, have symptoms of a cavity, or you’re simply due for a checkup, don’t delay. Schedule an appointment today can prevent complications including gum disease, abscess, or even tooth loss.

Use the form below or call (919) 552-2431 to request your appointment.

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