Treating a Dental Cavity
The dangers of dental cavities are well known, yet the problem is rampant. According to the American Dental Association (ADA), about one in five Americans are dealing with a tooth cavity.
When left untreated, a tooth cavity can cause severe tooth pain — at the very least. Preventing a cavity is easy, and there are dental procedures that can help halt the decay from worsening. Knowing about dental cavities, methods of treatment and prevention can save you from unnecessary discomfort.
How a dental cavity is formed
Dentists recommend people stay away from sugary items for a good cause. Cavities develop when the bacteria in the mouth combine with the sugar and fermentable starch. This mixture of sugar and bacteria causes acid production.
The Dental Health Foundation states that these acids enable demineralization, or the breakdown of protective calcium and phosphate in the teeth’s enamel. When the enamel weakens, and the dentin is uncovered, cavities will form easily, and the teeth become susceptible to chipping or cracking.
Cavities can also form if the tooth’s root becomes exposed because of receding gums or if you have dry mouth, a situation where the mouth does not have enough acid-neutralizing saliva to guard the teeth.
Treating a dental cavity
A dentist can save a decaying tooth with a restorative procedure. Minor cavities like white spot lesions can be treated with remineralization, which is the process of fortifying the weak enamel with calcium or fluoride. You can also strengthen your enamel against cavities by using ADA-approved fluoride toothpaste and mouthwashes, or getting a fluoride treatment from a dentist.
In more severe cases, restorative procedures like dental fillings, pulp capping and root canals can help. A dental filling is enough if the decay has not penetrated into the tooth’s pulp or nerve. The dentist will clean out the rot and fill the space with a resin composite or amalgam filling.
If the decay has penetrated the pulp or nerve, pulp capping or a root canal may be necessary to save the tooth. Pulp capping is usually done when the nerve has suffered only minor damage and if there is a chance the nerve will heal naturally.
The dentist will examine the condition of the tooth to ascertain the extent of the nerve damage. If the tooth pulp is damaged or the nerve is severely infected or inflamed, a root canal may be the best option. Severely decayed teeth may need to be removed.
Preventing a tooth cavity
Preventing cavities involves two dimensions — strengthening your teeth’s enamel and taking precautions against causative agents. To strengthen your teeth, you should consume more calcium-rich food and supplements. You can also talk to a dentist about getting dental sealants to protect the premolars and molars against acid and cavity-causing bacteria.
Precautions to take include brushing and flossing your teeth regularly, at least twice daily. If you must consume sugary beverages, do so between meals to reduce your teeth’s exposure to the acid. Sugar-free gums containing xylitol can help neutralize the bacteria in the mouth.
The bottom line
Adopting good oral hygiene is the surest way to guard against dental cavities. If you do notice or think you have a cavity, reach out to a dentist immediately before it worsens.
Request an appointment here: or call Campbell Smile at (408) 379-0851 for an appointment in our Campbell office.
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