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What is a cavity?

A cavity is an area of your tooth that is collapsing because all of the hardening minerals have been pulled out of that section of the tooth by acids in your mouth. Bacteria are also causing problems in that location.

How worried should I be about a cavity?

Cavities never get better with time. They only get larger and more expensive to deal with. So the question you have to ask yourself is, do I want to save this tooth? If the answer is yes, then the sooner you see your dentist, the better.

What causes cavities?

Cavities are caused by bacteria in our mouths that eat leftover carbohydrates and excrete acids onto the tooth. These acids dissolve and remove minute amounts of the hardening mineral of our tooth, leading to larger and larger soft areas in the tooth structure.

How does a dentist check for cavities?

Dentists use x-rays and physical examination under strong lights to check for cavities. If more clarity is needed, they can use lasers, pinpoint lights, special cameras, and dyes.

What are the stages of a cavity in the tooth?

The stages of a cavity depend on how much tooth structure has been affected and what we need to do to fix it. The stages range from initial damage to the enamel, to damage to the dentin, to the core where nerves and blood vessels are, and finally, to the stage where the tooth may need to be removed.

Can a cavity spread from one tooth to adjacent teeth?

All teeth are being affected all at the same time by bacteria and the acids they secrete after eating carbohydrates. Some teeth will exhibit the effects earlier than others, but a cavity doesn’t spread from tooth to tooth. The bacteria and their detrimental bi-products spread and then slowly affect all the teeth.

What factors affect how fast cavities occur and move through the tooth structure?

Factors include how many carbohydrates we eat per day, how frequently we snack, whether we floss and brush regularly, whether we use a correct amount of fluoride, and whether we protect our teeth from clenching and grinding.

Do cavities go away?

No, once the damage starts in your tooth, it will continue to progress with time.

Is it too late to save a tooth once the tooth starts hurting?

It may or may not be too late to save a tooth once it starts hurting. Factors that will determine this include how much of the tooth is left and whether the patient is invested in moving forward with what needs to be done to save the tooth.

How do I know if I am at risk for cavities?

If your teeth did not develop well, if you do not clean them well and regularly see a hygienist, and if you treat your teeth as if they are indestructible, you are at risk for cavities.

How are cavities treated by a dentist?

Cavities are treated by removing the cavities, any cracks or fractures, and any other problems inside the tooth. Depending on how much tooth is left, a filling or a crown may be placed.

How long can fillings last once they are placed?

Fillings can last seven years on average or longer, depending on a variety of factors including the size of the filling, how well the person keeps that area clean, and whether the person is a clencher or grinder.

Can cavities return once a filling has been placed?

Yes, cavities can return on the natural tooth structure that surrounds the filling material or the porcelain.

How can we prevent oral cavities?

To prevent oral cavities, you should be flossing daily, brushing two to three times a day, using a prescription-level fluoride toothpaste, minimizing snacking, seeing your hygienist regularly, and using a night guard.

Do dental cleanings fix cavities?

Dental cleanings do not directly fix a cavity, but they do help dramatically decrease your future potential of getting a cavity by removing the bacterial concentrations that are occurring around your teeth.

What should I do if I think I have a cavity?

If you think you have a cavity, call your dental office and schedule an appointment. The sooner you can get in and get those teeth treated, the better off you are.

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