Cavities, those holes in your mouth, also called tooth decay or dental caries, are among the most common tooth disorders in adults and children alike. They are caused by a number of factors, including a diet comprising of sugar, improper and infrequent brushing, and bad genetics.
Cavities are relatively straightforward to treat on their own, but too often people do not see their dentist in Marylebone at the moment the first signs of one form. People avoid going to their dental practitioners for a variety of reasons; they view the problem as more of an irritation than life threatening and they consider getting a single filling done too expensive.
Our vision at Plowman & Partners is to provide our patients with beautiful smiles and strong teeth, which also means nipping tooth problems in the bud as soon as possible. In this article, we will describe, in a nutshell, what cavities are and how they develop, and the dangers of leaving them untreated.
How do cavities form?
You would be half right if you guessed “sugar”, but the answer is more complicated than that. The harmful bacteria in your mouth turns the starch and sugar from the food you eat into acid that damages the teeth.
The process of bacteria turning food into acid is known as an “acid attack” or “shock”, and occurs around 20 minutes after you eat. An acid attack is not harmful on its own as the mouth regenerates by producing enough saliva to neutralise the acid. The acid becomes dangerous, however, through prolonged exposure to food and fizzy drinks. For example, when consuming a sugary beverage, drink it quickly in one sitting rather than taking a few sips here and there over a few hours.
Properly brushing and flossing is also necessary for preventing tooth decay. After you eat, a combination of food particles and saliva create a sticky film called plaque. Plaque must be removed from your teeth to prevent it from building up and hardening into tartar; a highly acidic substance that erodes your enamel.
How do I know when I have a cavity?
When we tell our patients they have one or a number of cavities that need correcting, they tend to be surprised: “I did not feel pain, sensitivity or discomfort” is a typical response we get. The early stages of a cavity are hard to detect without a trained eye because you will not feel pain.
One way to know whether you have any forming is to put a mirror to the back of your mouth and see whether you have black spots on your teeth – which could be a sign of tooth decay or plaque build up. Another way is to keep to your biannual appointments at the dentist in Marylebone.
Can the cavity heal on its own without medical treatment?
The short answer is no, if left untreated the cavity progressively worsens, resulting in infections of the nerves and bones. With diseases that reach the nerves, you will experience sensitivities of all kinds: to heat, cold and foods that are hard, followed by pain. Your life becomes restricted in many ways. If considered severe enough, you might have to undergo an emergency root canal to save your teeth.
Bone diseases occur in the event of a tooth abscess, which is accompanied by intense pain and presents the very real danger of spreading throughout your body.
For whatever reason, an embarrassment of how your teeth look, genuine fear, or unwillingness to spend money on a dentist’s bill, you might be avoiding your local dental practitioner. Do not neglect your oral health and hygiene out of fear or pride, treating an issue early on is likely to save you on time, expenses and a whole lot of pain in the long run.