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What Causes A Cavity?

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Since youth, we have all been made aware of the importance of oral hygiene. Brushing and flossing our teeth twice a day, as well as using mouthwash regularly is needed to get rid of food and bacteria.

Dental Health

By failing to adhere to a consistent dental health plan, you run the risk of developing a number of health problems. Cavities are typically the first thing to occur when our teeth are not taken care of properly. Furthermore, it doesn’t take long for gingivitis and other forms of gum disease to start in the wake of prolonged poor dental hygiene.

The reason oral hygiene matters

A cavity is a formation in the surface of a tooth that is caused by the gradual erosion of the enamel surface. When plaque is allowed to build, it slowly eats away at the lining that covers our teeth and protects the delicate, underlying nerve endings.

When the body comes into contact with pathogens or bacteria, our body naturally responds by producing saliva, which can clear some of these pathogens. There are a number of types of bacteria, however, that eat the sugar that is found in many kinds of food. Plaque forms as a result, which then slowly erodes tooth enamel mineral deposits.

The reason your dentist stresses a strict oral hygiene regimen is that once gone, this natural enamel layer can never be restored, as least without synthetic intervention (like fillings, veneers, or other procedures your dentist will have to perform).

In time, plaque buildup creates numerous, small holes in the surface of our teeth, which thereby exposes the underlying and more delicate dentin layer. This part of the tooth is much more susceptible to erosion by the acidic by-products of bacteria, and thus experiences a far faster rate of decay.

Beneath the dentin lies the pulp, the region of our teeth that contains blood vessels and nerve endings. You will know whether your cavity has reached this state, as pulp afflictions are very painful. Increased tooth sensitivity and severe discomfort while eating are common, and at this point you should not wait to give your dentist a call.

You may even notice the formation of pus pockets where the cavity is located, and these are the direct result of a bacterial infection that has been left untreated. Cavities are corrected by cleaning away the debris and inserting a filling to close the exposed tooth layers.

What Causes A Cavity

How To Prevent Cavities:

Now that you know the science behind how cavities occur, it is important to outline how they can be prevented.

  1. Brush Your Teeth Twice Per Day.
  2. Since we mentioned the importance of a good oral hygiene routine, this part won’t come as a surprise. Although brushing your teeth twice a day is good, brushing after every meal is even better. Don’t forget to brush before bed, either!

  3. Floss Your Teeth Every Day (And Don’t Forget Mouthwash).
  4. If you turn this into a habit – something you do without much thought – it won’t be a chore at all. Flossing removes all of the plaque and stops it from creating holes in your teeth (and thus a cavity). The last step in your oral hygiene routine should be using a gentle mouthwash to remove any leftover residue and bacteria in your mouth.

  5. Consume Sugar in Moderation.
  6. Avoid sugar as much as possible – this includes candy and cookies. As bacteria in your mouth consume the carbs from the sugar, the bacteria then create acid, which mixes with saliva to create more plaque. Although sugar doesn’t directly cause cavities, it plays a part – especially if you are nonchalant about brushing your teeth and removing the day’s buildup of plaque.

  7. Eat Foods That Promote Oral Health.
  8. Some foods are particularly good at preventing cavities. Raw carrots, for example, create a lot of saliva in your mouth as you chew away at them, which creates saliva. Saliva contains a mixture of proteins and minerals and also fights against germs by washing them away – both of which serve as protection against the formation of cavities. Celery has a similar effect – in fact, it is almost like a toothbrush itself as it rids your mouth of bacteria as you chew away at it. Apples are also a good pick, while leafy greens have been shown to build up enamel – especially in pregnant women.

  9. Schedule Regular Dental Check-Ups.
  10. Schedule dental checkups at least twice per year. This is important so that if you do have a cavity, it can be treated immediately. Leaving cavities unattended will only allow them to continue to grow and so treating them early will avoid more complicated problems later on. Failure to repair a cavity can eventually lead to an infection, which can cause an abscess. An abscess is typically painful and at this point, only a root canal can be used as a means to repair the cavity.

For more information about cavities, how they’re formed, and how you can prevent them, contact the Centenary Dental team today!


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Dr. Stacey Stein
A graduate from the Faculty of Dentistry at the University of Toronto, Dr. Stacy Stein provides personalized care to each patient by explaining the risks and benefits of different treatment options in an honest way, and involves patients in their own care. With a focus on preventative, paediatrics, restorative, prosthodontics, and endodontics, she loves working with patients of all ages.