Cavities are usually characterized by sensitivity to hot, cold, or sweet food, although not all cavities cause toothaches. Even a dentist may not detect the onset of slowly-progressing or small cavities, unless they start to cause pain. In general, light-brown colored cavities are slow-growing.
Basically, three things must be considered when dealing with dental cavities. These are prevention, remineralization, and restoration, and each will be discussed in detail.
Today, cases of premature tooth loss has become less prevalent because of the emergence of preventive dentistry. Armed with better knowledge and technology, people are able to prevent or slow down the development of cavities. Bacteria is the known cause of cavities, and since it is practically impossible to get rid of all the bacteria in the mouth, the next best thing is to minimize the intake of dental caries-causing foods like starches and sugars. A healthy diet is important even for young children to maintain strong baby teeth so they will later be replaced by equally strong and healthy adult teeth.
In particular, juices and soft drinks should be avoided as they are extremely harmful for the teeth. Instead of sugar, xylitol can be used as a substitute. Chewing xylitol gum after a meal can in fact, lower the risk of cavities.
Plaque that develops outside the teeth can be easily removed by brushing. Flossing can eliminate plaque that develop in-between teeth. Gargling with mouthwash also helps reduce the amount of harmful bacteria that are present in the mouth.
To protect children from tooth decay, the dentist will usually suggest plastic sealants to be placed in the grooves and pits of the teeth. Having your kids visit the dentist on a regular basis will help prevent the onset of cavities or keep them from getting worse.
By using a substance containing calcium or fluoride, shallow cavities may be reversed through a process called tooth remineralization or re-hardening. Fluoride helps make the enamel more cavity-resistant. It may be used in the form of supplements, fluoride toothpastes, fluoridated water, or through dental fluoride treatments and varnishes. You must, however, limit your fluoride exposure as extremely high levels can be unhealthy.
Once a cavity has become too large for remineralization to remedy, it should be restored. For smaller cavities, restoration can be done by using a filling made from composite or silver amalgam. A crown may be necessary to cover the tooth if the decay is too big. Crowns are often made of porcelain, zirconium, or gold.
On the other hand, root canal may be prescribed if the cavity has reached the tooth’s center, and has infected the nerve. The tooth may need to be extracted if the cavity has infected the majority of the surface of the tooth. The lost tooth can then be replaced with a bridge or a dental implant.