You may have thought that since your adult teeth grew in, you’re free of common “kid” problems like cavities. Unfortunately, this is just a myth. The fact is that anyone is susceptible to cavities, at any age. Also known as dental caries, cavities form when the bacteria in your mouth breaks down sugars and carbohydrates into acids that eat away at your teeth. If you don’t brush your teeth regularly, and even sometimes if you do, that acid is likely to stay on your teeth, eventually creating a cavity. But how do you know if you have one?

  • Your dentist – Best case scenario, your dentist will catch your cavity early at your next dental check up. Dentists check regularly for cavities and any other abnormalities when you go in for a teeth cleaning to make sure that everything is as it should be.
  • Mild tooth pain – If you experience mild tooth pain when you eat or drink freezing cold or piping hot foods, it could be a sign that you have a cavity. As bacteria eats away at your teeth, the dentin is exposed, which is the soft tissue in your teeth that holds the nerves. This makes your teeth much more sensitive to extreme temperatures.
  • Toothaches – Tooth hurting constantly? That’s a probable indicator of a cavity. It’s a good idea to give the dentist a call as soon as possible. If you let cavities go, they can eventually turn into abscesses, and if left untreated your entire tooth could decay.
  • Holes or dark spots – If you see any holes or abnormal dark spots on your teeth, it’s almost certain that you have a cavity. This is one of the most unquestionable signs of a cavity, so it’s a good idea to schedule an appointment with your dentist as soon as possible.

So now you’ve made the appointment to get that potential cavity checked out. If it does turn out to be a cavity, here are a few scenarios to prepare yourself for:

In most cases, as long as it’s a small cavity, your dentist will numb the area, and then drill into the area of your tooth that’s decaying. Once all of the “bad parts” of your tooth are gone, the dentist will fill the hole back in with either a metal or ceramic filling.

If a large portion of your tooth was affected by the cavity, your dentist may install a crown instead. This means they will, again, remove all of the decayed parts of your tooth, and then place a fitted crown over the remaining tooth. A crown is bigger than a filling, and is basically like a cap for your tooth.

Worst case scenario, if your tooth has died, meaning the inside of your tooth and its roots are no longer functioning, your dentist will probably perform a root canal. This means all of the nerves, blood vessels, etc., will be taken out and then filled in by your dentist. Oftentimes, a crown will go on top of the filling to keep everything intact.

How can you avoid cavities in the future?

Now that you know the symptoms associated with cavities, here are some great tips to avoid them in the future:

  • Brush and floss regularly – The best way to avoid tooth decay is to prevent bacteria from getting to your teeth in the first place. If you brush your teeth after every meal and floss daily, it will be difficult for bacteria to take up residence.
  • Try not to eat right before bed – If you eat right before you sleep, you’re essentially giving the bacteria on your teeth food to create more plaque. Try not to eat directly before bedtime, and if you do, definitely brush your teeth before you sleep.
  • Watch what you eat – Foods high in sugars and simple carbohydrates will be worse for your teeth than others. This is because the bacteria will convert sugars and carbohydrates into an acid that can destroy your teeth if not taken care of.
  • Frequent sipping or snacking – The more often you eat, the less likely it is for your teeth to get rid of bacteria. If you’re a pop sipper, that’s one of the easiest ways to develop a cavity. Pop – even diet flavors – contains all kinds of sugars, and if you’re constantly sipping on it throughout the day, your teeth won’t have a break from all of the bacteria. This will put you at a higher risk for cavities.
  • Dry mouth – If your mouth has less than normal amounts of saliva, you are at a higher risk for cavities. Saliva is what washes away bad bacterias and food that gets stuck in your teeth. If you think you might have a dry mouth, it’s a good idea to talk to a dentist about a prescription that might help your symptoms, and save your teeth as well.

If you’re concerned that you might have a cavity, or if you have any questions about cavities and their treatment, feel free to call Creason & Weber Family Dentistry at (616) 842-0822 or put in an online request for an appointment today!