What exactly is a cavity. By the standard definition, a cavity means a hole. A dental cavity is therefore a hole in the tooth. The cavity is surrounded by bacteria, which produce acids that dissolve even more tooth structure, therefore increasing the size of the cavity. Left untreated, as more tooth structure is removed, the integrity and strength of the tooth is compromised. When enough force is applied to the tooth with the cavity, it can crack, or a a portion of the tooth can break off. In the worst case scenario, the tooth may have to be pulled. If the cavity is too large and near the nerve of the tooth, a root canal procedure would need to be performed in order to save the tooth.
You may hear your general dentist refer to the cavity as caries or tooth decay. The outer layer of teeth is composed of enamel, which is the hardest substance in the body. But even so, enamel gets worn away with time. Teeth withstand a large amount of abuse ranging from chemical erosion from acids, to physical forces applied from chewing. Teeth vary in the thickness of protective enamel, which is laid down while the teeth are being formed. If the layer of enamel is thinner from the start, then the chances that tooth with form a cavity is greater.
Why do some people get more cavities than others? The answer is complex and dependent on many factors. Chemical erosion can occur from acidic foods and drinks consumed. Erosion is also a result of certain types of bacteria which create acids as a byproduct of their metabolism. These bacteria are able to ferment different types of sugars, and the end result is the creation of acids. The diet of a person matters as much as how much of this bacteria is thriving inside the mouth. Cavities can form underneath cosmetic crowns, fillings, porcelain veneers, and bridges.
Limiting the types of foods promote cavities will help decrease the overall number of cavities a person will get. Thoroughly brushing and flossing also helps to decrease cavities because it is removing bacteria from the equation, the less bacteria present means less acid produced. Cavities have greatly decreased since the introduction of fluoride in to public water systems. The use of a fluoride mouthwash helps to restrengthen thin enamel. Your general or cosmetic dentist has an abundance of knowledge and resources to guide you into your quest of understanding the in’s and out’s of cavities.