11 Mar 2016 How Did I Get A Cavity?
Cavities, also know as dental caries, are caused by decay that has worked its way though the outer protective enamel of the tooth. If not treated, a cavity will eventually lead to an abscess requiring a root canal or extraction.
The Life-Cycle Of a Cavity
A cavity starts with the wearing away of the hard surface layer of the tooth, typically by acid in the mouth. Constant consumption of acid-rich foods and beverages is how you get cavities. Acid can also be made by plaque, the sticky substance that coats your teeth.
A cavity typically begins with a small dull spot on the tooth or when the enamel becomes compromised due to a chip. At this point preventing cavities can usually be accomplished with good oral hygiene. Flossing and brushing with a fluoride toothpaste can prevent the spot from developing into a full-blown cavity.
Once the spot grows into a hole it officially becomes a “cavity.”. At this stage the enamel has worn away, exposing the dentin. A cavity usually doesn’t exhibit symptoms of pain at this point, so it can sometimes be difficult to detect if the cavity is not in a conspicuous spot.
Once the cavity has reached the dentin it begins to advance more rapidly. Once the decay gets into the dentin far enough it will reach a nerve and result in pain. At this point it is crucial to get to your dentist as soon as possible.
Once the decay eats it way through the dentin and reaches the pulp the toothache will become extremely painful. The bacteria present in your mouth can cause the pulp to become infected, resulting in the death of blood vessels and nerves. At this point the tooth will usually require a root canal.
If the cavity still goes untreated it will now develop into an abscess. With the bone surrounding the tooth becoming infected, severe pain and swelling will usually result and the infection can spread to other parts of the body that can become fatal if left untreated.
How Quickly Can a Cavity Develop?
Cavities don’t develop overnight. Because conditions aren’t always ideal for the demineralization process, the action that causes a cavity to form, it can take several months, and sometimes years, for tooth decay to reach the point where it calls for attention. This is why a trip to your dentist every six months is so effective at preventing cavities.
The Unusual Suspects
While sugary foods and beverages are usually blamed for cavities, many of the foods you may not typically think of as causing tooth decay are the worst culprits. In general, it is the highly-acidic foods that wear away at the enamel, that are the biggest factors in getting cavities. The top cavity-causing foods are:
- Citrus fruits, like oranges, grapefruit and lemons, which are loaded with strong acids.
- Pickles: the acid in vinegar combined with the sugar in the cucumbers is a tooth’s worst nightmare.
- Tomatoes have very high levels of acid.
- Coffee is high in tannic acids that wear down enamel.
- Any type of dried fruit is perfect for getting stuck between teeth.
- Fruit juices, which are high in natural sugars, can also be a culprit.
At Holladay Family Dental, Dr.’s Greaves and Cannon are highly trained to remove decay and restore teeth to strong healthy and white teeth. Call us at 801-272-8051 for an appointment if you think you have a cavity or just need a routine dental checkup!