February 3, 2010

Dental Cavities

Cavities and their Causes

“Cavity” is a word for tooth decay. This is caused most of the time by the build-up of plaque on the teeth and gums. Plaque is a film of bacteria that coats the teeth. After a meal, plaque gives off acids that break down the tooth enamel. This leads to decay or cavities.

In time, plaque may also congeal into tartar, which is a threat to the gums. The inflammation and bleeding from tartar may lead to gum disease. This is when the gums begin to pull back from the teeth. That can lead to pouches of pus and bacteria. The result can be severe cavities, in which one or more teeth have to be removed.

Good dental hygiene is the key to minimizing plaque and preventing these outcomes.

The Three Lines of Defense Against Cavities

There are three main lines of defense against cavities. The first is a healthy diet that limits foods high is sugars and starch.  Both of these can cause plaque build-up and lead to decay.

Eating healthy foods such as vegetables and fruits can also lead to cavities for those who are not on board with the second line of defense: brushing and flossing. You should brush the teeth twice a day to keep plaque build-up low. Be sure to brush all the sides of your teeth, too: inner, outer, and those used to chew. Fluoride toothpastes are best since they help prevent decay.

Flossing, too, is vital to prevent decay. It cleans plaque and bits of food out of the areas between the teeth that are hard to reach with a brush. The use of floss is also crucial to prevent gum disease. When you floss, be sure to clean all the way up to the top of each tooth, where the tooth meets the gum line.

The third and final line of defense against cavities is regular trips to the dentist for professional dental cleanings. This helps you preserve the appearance of your teeth, and it gives the dentist a chance to spot early signs of decay. When you skip regular visits to the dentist, you put yourself at risk for more serious dental problems. Untreated cavities, for instance, may lead to root canal infections, permanent tooth decay, and, in time, even tooth loss.

For more about cavities and how to prevent them, speak with your dentist.