Cavities are incredibly common. Nearly 90% of Americans will have at least one cavity before turning 40, and about 20% are suffering from untreated cavities. They affect people of every age, even infants. If left untreated, cavities can cause serious dental problems, including pain, infection, and eventually loss of the affected teeth.
It’s common knowledge that cavities can be prevented by practicing good dental hygiene and avoiding sweets. They are caused by a buildup of plaque, which contains harmful bacteria. This bacteria feeds on sugars and releases acids as a byproduct. (That’s why sugar is so damaging.) These corrosive acids gradually destroy tooth enamel, creating small pits and caries—AKA, cavities.
Do you think you may have a cavity? Newly formed cavities rarely present symptoms and often go undetected until they worsen. As a cavity progresses, you’ll typically notice one or more of these common symptoms:
1. Discomfort and tooth sensitivity.
This is the most common symptom of a cavity—the one that usually inspires a patient to call in for an appointment with his or her preferred Overland Park dentist. Most people feel a dull ache in the affected tooth that sharpens when they drink especially hot or cold beverages or eat sweets.
2. Visible pits or tooth discoloration.
If you can see the cavity, that means that the decay is advanced and has eroded away the protective enamel on your tooth. The discoloration can take on lots of variations. Cavities typically appear black or brown, but they can be gray or white as well.
3. Persistent bad breath.
If you’re suffering from bad breath in spite of regular brushing, flossing, tongue-scraping, and rinsing with mouthwash, you may have a cavity. You may also notice a foul taste that lingers in your mouth.
4. Sticky, tarry tooth texture.
When you bite down on the affected tooth, you may notice a sticky, tarry feeling. This is caused by the erosion of the enamel, which makes the tooth soft and porous.
5. Inflamed gums and discharge.
Severe cavities result in painful abscesses—infections deep in the jaw at the base of the affected tooth. You may have swelling in your jaw or lymph nodes as well as a fever.
Due to genetic variations in tooth enamel and saliva, some people are genetically predisposed to cavities. Even those who have softer tooth enamel can ward off cavities with healthy dental habits. Eat a healthy diet with limited refined carbohydrates and sugars. Practice good oral hygiene; brush, floss, and use a quality oral rinse on a daily basis. Chew sugarless gum, especially after meals. If you are predisposed to cavities or have suffered from tooth decay, ask Dr. Watts, your friendly Overland Park dentist, about sealants to protect your teeth.
If you think you may have a cavity, make an appointment with your Overland Park dentist right away.
This article brought to you by Watts Family Dental in Overland Park, Kansas. Our friendly office specializes in preventative dental care for the whole family. To make an appointment, please call (913) 338-3384 or click here to fill out our online contact form