Female patient with open mouth  receiving dental inspection at dentist's office

What are cavities?

Cavities are the result of tooth decay. They are basically holes that created from the decay. As cavities, progress, pain is caused, resulting in the patient visiting a dental clinic.

What is tooth decay?

Tooth decay is damage that is arguably caused from bad oral hygiene. Proper brushing and flossing are necessary in the prevention of plaque forming on the teeth. Plaque is formed from a mix of elements found in one’s mouth – saliva, natural bacteria, acids, and food particles. Plaque that forms on the teeth damages teeth in the long run because it turns sugar into acid. This acid works to dissolve the person’s enamel of the teeth, causing holes, also known as cavities.

Do cavities go away on its own?

No. Cavities do not go away on its own, and when they are left untreated, they continue to grow in size, cavities grow bigger and bigger, eating away at not only the enamel but into the inner layers of the tooth – the dentin (the softer tissue below the enamel, and even to the roots of the tooth. As cavities grow, they may not at first cause any pain to a patient – especially when it is smaller and at the enamel layers of the tooth.

However, a patient may start to feel pain as it reaches the inner layers of the tooth. They should not be left alone – patients who feel the slightest bit of pain are encouraged to visit their dentist for a checkup to see if it is a cavity causing the pain and to get it treated as soon as possible. This is because when cavities are left untreated, they not only cause pain, but grow, which means, the hole in the tooth gets bigger and bigger – it might grow bigger and bigger from the inside so to the visible eye, the cavity might appear to be a speck; in this instance, if the person bites down on something hard, the tooth will break due to the hole on the inside.

If a tooth breaks, the dentist will do their best to save the tooth, using methods like root canals and crowns but in some cases, the damage may be too severe to save the tooth – meaning, the patient will have to have the tooth extracted.

What are cavities?

What are some signs of cavities?

If the cavity has grown, patients will experience tooth pain, other symptoms may include bad breath, soreness, swelling gums, bleeding gums, and sensitivity to hot and cold food/drinks.

How are Cavities diagnosed?

It is to spot things like cavities in the early stages that patients are recommended to visit their dentist for regular checkups. During the checkup, the dentist will look for spots on the teeth which will signify cavities as well as taking X-rays of specific teeth. At the Oaks Dental Clinic, a Panoramic CT scan (all the teeth in one photo) can be taken to show all the teeth and if specific x-rays need to be taken, it may be required as well.

How are cavities treated?

Cavities are treated using a variety of methods like fillings, inlays, onlays, and root canal with crowns. If the cavity has progressed past a certain point, the tooth cannot be saved and so the patient will need to have the tooth extracted. In this instance, the patient will need other forms of restorations like bridge or implant to fill the gap that occurs from the extraction.

Prevention is Key!

Thus, prevention is key! We can’t emphasize this enough to our patients. Cavities can be prevented with a good oral hygiene routine consisting of good brushing and flossing habits.

Patients should aim to have visit their dentists twice a year for a checkup and cleaning– even if it seems everything is fine! Cavities can exist on the enamel level where they cannot be felt. Early detection and treating them early saves money, time, and it is less invasive!

Regular cleanings (also known as scaling in some countries) are also highly recommended for patients. This procedure may also seem cumbersome, so patients often skip dental cleanings, but it is imperative for good oral health. Regardless of a good oral hygiene routine, plaque can still grow in the hard to reach areas so it is important to get regular cleanings at the dental clinic to remove them because they can continue to grow and later become cavities. Hence, taking the time to take all the preventative measures is imperative to having a healthy and happy smile.