Tooth decay

Other names: Cavities/tooth decay

DEFINITION

Cavities are damaged areas in the hard surface of your teeth that develop into tiny openings or holes. They are caused by factors such as bacteria in your mouth, frequent snacking, sipping sugary drinks, and poor oral hygiene. Cavities are common in children, teenagers, and older adults.

SYMPTOMS

Symptoms of cavities include toothache, sensitivity to hot/cold/sweet foods, visible holes in teeth, and staining on tooth surfaces.

CAUSES

Cavities are caused by a process called tooth decay, where bacteria in the mouth produce acids that erode tooth enamel. Factors like plaque formation, acidic foods/drinks, inadequate brushing, and lack of Fluoride can contribute to cavities.

RISK FACTORS

Risk factors for cavities include tooth location, certain foods/drinks, frequent snacking/sipping, dry mouth, age, worn fillings/dental devices, eating disorders, and heartburn.

COMPLICATIONS

Complications of cavities can include pain, abscesses, broken teeth, chewing problems, and shifts in tooth positioning. Severe cases may lead to weight loss, tooth loss, and serious infections.

PREPARING FOR YOUR APPOINTMENT

Before seeing your dentist for tooth pain or sensitivity, make a list of medications/allergies and prepare questions about your condition. Your dentist may ask about your oral hygiene habits and conduct tests like examining your mouth and X-rays.

TESTS AND DIAGNOSIS

Dentists diagnose cavities by asking about symptoms, examining teeth, probing for soft areas, and using X-rays to assess decay extent.

TREATMENTS AND DRUGS

Treatment options for cavities include Fluoride treatments for early decay stages, fillings for advanced decay, crowns for extensive decay/weakened teeth, root canals for pulp involvement, and extractions for severely damaged teeth.

LIFESTYLE AND HOME REMEDIES

Practicing good oral hygiene with Fluoride toothpaste/flossing/mouthwash use can help prevent cavities. Regular dental check-ups, sealants for back teeth protection, tap water consumption for Fluoride intake, and avoiding frequent snacking/sipping are also recommended.


QUESTIONS

  1. What are some symptoms of cavities?

Toothache

Tooth sensitivity

Visible holes in teeth

Staining on tooth surfaces

  1. What causes cavities?

Bacteria in the mouth producing acids

Plaque formation

Acidic foods/drinks

Lack of Fluoride

  1. Who is at risk of getting cavities?

Everyone with teeth

Children

Teenagers

Older adults

  1. What complications can arise from untreated cavities?

Pain

Abscesses

Broken teeth

Tooth loss

  1. How can you prepare for a dental appointment regarding cavities?

Make a list of medications/allergies

Prepare questions about your condition

Brush your teeth thoroughly before the appointment

  1. How do dentists usually diagnose cavities?

Asking about symptoms

Examining the mouth and teeth

Probing for soft areas

Using X-rays

  1. What lifestyle changes can help prevent cavities?

Brushing with Fluoride toothpaste after meals

Regular dental check-ups

Drinking tap water for Fluoride intake

  1. What are some treatment options for cavities?

Fillings

Crowns

Root canals

Extractions

  1. Why is it important to address cavities promptly?

To prevent complications like pain and infection

To avoid tooth loss

To maintain oral health

  1. How do lifestyle factors contribute to cavity formation?

Frequent snacking/sipping fuels bacteria that attack teeth