With time, our teeth will start showing certain signs of wear, including stains, plaque, decay and cavities. And while the rest of the issues can be taken care of easily, tooth decay and cavities can pose many dangers to overall oral and dental health and so need to be handled carefully. Each tooth in our mouth is protected by a natural outer covering called enamel. These protect the teeth from staining or developing cavities.
However, with time this protective enamel layer would start to wear away. This can be attributed to the starch and sugars that we consume on a daily basis. These substances react with the natural bacteria present in the mouth to form plaque, a thin layered film that sticks to the surface of the teeth.
With time (and with improper care), the plaque on the teeth builds up. The acids present in the plaque start reacting on the protective enamel, gradually dissolving it and forming small holes that develop into cavities and thus, tooth decay as well.
Detecting and Preventing Cavities
Proper Oral care and Hygiene are two of the best ways to keep cavities at bay. However, in order to properly treat a cavity, you need to learn how to detect one in the first place. These tips given below would surely help you detect cavities in time for them to be effectively treated without much damage to the teeth or gums.
Holes in the Teeth
In addition to going for regular dental checkups, make it a point to examine your teeth carefully after brushing and flossing every day. Stand in front of a mirror and open your mouth wide enough to get you a good glimpse of the inner molars.
Check for holes on the teeth surface or broken teeth. Anything that looks odd (like a black dot on a tooth that refuses to go away even if you wipe it) can be a potential cavity and needs to be taken seriously.
Any signs of discoloration in your teeth and gums could possibly indicate the onset of a cavity. The exact shade would also help you determine how progressed the cavity it. For instance, a bright white film on your teeth would indicate the starting of the plaque deposition.
A tainted yellow or brown shade would indicate that the enamel have started breaking down. Any signs of black or grey areas on the tooth and gums would indicate a serious cavity that could cause permanent tooth/gums damage or tooth loss.
The starting of a mild-throbbing pain in your teeth/gums can indicate a possible cavity. Check the intensity of the pain and the frequency of its occurrence. If the pain is accompanied by swelling in the gums, chances are the decayed tooth might have affected the nerves attached to it.
This could also indicate that the decay has traveled inside the gum line, a condition that needs to be checked out by a doctor immediately. If the pain is intense, covers an entire area of the mouth and is accompanied by dizziness, headaches, nausea or blood/pus secretion at the affected area, you need to call your dentist right away.
As the tooth decays, it starts affecting the nerves attached to it, making them more vulnerable to hot and cold foods.
Heightened sensitivity can also cause the teeth to become sensitive to even sweet, spicy or sour foods. So if you are finding it difficult to eat any kind of food without feeling excruciating pain, call the dentist immediately.
With time, decayed teeth will start emitting a foul odor which will persist in your mouth even if you brush, floss or rinse your mouth repeatedly. If you start experiencing this, chances are one or more of your teeth have started developing cavities.
This is in case you had filled in your cavities previously. If you notice the filling loosening up, chances are the cavity is recurring at the same spot. If the issue is accompanied by tooth pain or loose teeth, you need to meet a dentist right away.
How to Prevent Cavities
Now that you know how to keep a lookout for cavities in your mouth, it’s time you started understanding how to prevent them in the first place.
The best way to keep bacteria and ensuing cavities from your mouth is to brush your teeth regularly. Although it pays to brush your teeth after every meal, you can opt to brush your teeth at least twice a day.
Combine this with regular flossing (at least twice a day) to remove food, dirt or other unwanted particles that may have got stuck in between the teeth. Fluoride is a teeth strengthening agent that can help your teeth fight off cavities on their own to an extent. So opt for toothpastes that contain fluoride. You can also go for inter-dental cleaners to substitute regular flossing.
Cutting down on foods
With time, you would need to reduce the intake of foods which contain high amounts of sugar, starches and carbohydrates etc. These foods would stick to the teeth and become potential breeding grounds for bacteria, causing cavities eventually. Certain foods that you need to reduce if not omit completely from your existing diet include sugars, sweets, chips, pretzels, candy etc. If you cannot cut down on these foods completely, make it a point to brush your teeth immediately afterwards.
Rather than eating something or the other throughout the day, limit your meals to 3 times a day and avoid snacking in between. This would prevent damage by neutralizing the acid before the next meal. Opt for nutritious meals that would not have any effects on the teeth. And make it a point to drink fluoridated water every day (at least a pint) to naturally strengthen the teeth and fight off cavities.
Supplements and Therapies
Many dentists would prescribe fluoride supplements for patients with tooth decay or cavities. Ask your dentist whether you can opt for the same. And while you are at it, you can also check for possible antibacterial therapy which involves cleaning out the tooth, removing the decay and sealing the empty pit in the tooth.
Another option to protect teeth from cavities is the use of dental sealants. These are wafer thin protective coatings that can be applied to the teeth surface, especially the chewing surfaces to prevent bacteria buildup and cavities.
Visiting the Dentist
Opt for regular visits to the clinic to get your teeth examined for cavities. You can also opt for regular cleaning sessions wherein the dentist would put a check on impending plaque and cavities by using concentrated fluoride treatments. This would in turn prevent the need for tooth drilling or filling.