What is tooth decay (cavities)? A cavity is a bacterial infection inside of a tooth, which creates an open void as the tooth structure essentially disintegrates. Left untreated, cavities grow larger and spread into adjacent teeth.
Signs of Tooth Decay
In adults and children, symptoms of tooth decay can vary from one person to the next. Surprisingly, most of the time you won’t see a physical hole in the tooth. Rather, you’ll probably notice one of the following warning signs:
Sweet Sensitivity- Sensitivity to sweets is one of the most obvious symptoms of a cavity. Sweets can be anything from your favorite coffee creamer to fruit juice to a breath mint. When the sugar or artificial sweetener sends a sharp zing through your mouth, it’s almost always because there’s an area of tooth decay that you don’t know about.
Pain When Biting Down on the Tooth- Cavities don’t always hurt. It might just seem like there’s something off with your tooth. But other times, your tooth may be particularly tender to biting and chewing pressure. If you tap your teeth together or notice a sharp pain whenever you’re eating, be sure to schedule an exam to see what’s going on. It could also be an abscess or cracked tooth.
If the pain goes away, you still want to be sure to have the area checked out. Since a severely decayed tooth may suffer nerve death, pain sensations may be less noticeable over time.
Food Getting Caught Between Teeth- There’s a pretty big chance that whenever you eat, food will get caught inside your cavity. This can make it feel like you need to floss or use a toothpick in the same “problem spot” after every meal. Your gums might be irritated in that area too, because of food being stuck there throughout the day.
Floss Catching, Shredding, or Breaking- Along the lines of food getting caught between your teeth, there’s a good chance that your floss will get caught, too. Especially since so many cavities form between the teeth. When you run the strand through that space, any sharp edges from your cavity can “cut” the floss or cause it to start shredding. If you notice that your floss breaks in the same area every single time, be sure to let our San Diego dentist know.
You Can Feel a Rough Edge with Your Tongue- When there’s an opening inside your tooth, it can leave sharp enamel edges around the cavity. When you run your tongue over that space, you’ll feel a noticeable difference in the textures of your teeth.
What Causes Tooth Decay?
Plaque biofilm naturally etches your tooth enamel because it’s acidic. If you don’t brush well, never floss, or eat foods that encourage biofilm production (such as processed carbs or a lot of sweets) it will lead to plaque sitting on your teeth for longer periods throughout the day. In time, the enamel will demineralize and begin to decay.
Tooth Decay Causes and Prevention
Cavities aren’t always the result of eating candy or a lot of sweets. They frequently form along the gums and between teeth, where plaque isn’t removed thoroughly. You can also get cavities by drinking a lot of naturally and artificially sweetened liquids, such as juice, sports drinks, and diet soda. Since liquids coat the teeth and fill in deep areas, they can easily create cavities in hard-to-clean spaces.
Good oral hygiene (including daily flossing), using fluoride toothpaste and drinking fluoridated tap water-along with regular checkups-are the best way to reduce your chances of new cavities.
Tooth Decay Treatment in Pacific Beach
Our dentists in Pacific Beach offer early intervention treatments to keep your restorations small, gentle, and affordable. Most small cavities are repaired with a minimally-invasive white filling.
Scheduling regular checkups can help limit your risk of undiagnosed cavities or abscessed teeth. Contact Altrock Fabb Dental in San Diego today to reserve your next exam.