Our teeth are an important part of everyday life. We use them to nourish our bodies so we can grow strong and stay healthy. We also show them when we smile which helps make a good first impression whenever we meet new people. We develop two sets of teeth in our lifetimes: our primary or baby teeth and our secondary or adult teeth.
Once your adult teeth have grown in, usually by age twelve or thirteen, it’s very important to properly care for them as you won’t be getting anymore naturally (except for perhaps wisdom teeth). The most prevalent threat to the longevity of your teeth are cavities.
What Is A Cavity?
Cavities are holes in your tooth enamel that tooth decay has weakened and broken open. This exposes the sensitive soft tissues and nerves within to bacteria and can cause infections. Cavities can even make chewing properly difficult. This hinders your ability to eat a varied diet and can cause you not to get all the nutrients you need.
Cavities are the most often diagnosed ailment that people can have after the common cold. But what causes this rampant threat to our smiles? And what can we do to fix them or prevent them in the first place? Dr. Ray Becker of Howard County Smiles in Ellicott City, MD has the answers.
How Do Cavities Form?
Our mouths are an ideal habitat for live bacteria — most of which are relatively harmless — to thrive. These bacteria tend to concentrate and feed on plaque (a combination of saliva and leftover food particles) in places that are hard for us to clean such as in between teeth and right at or just below the gum line. When we eat foods that are rich in carbohydrates such as sugars (like donuts and candy) or starches (like potato chips), the bacteria in our mouths break these components down. This process creates acids that feast on the plaque on or between our teeth and just keep going through our enamel.
How Are Cavities Treated?
Cavities are usually treated by your dentist with fillings. In this process the holes or weakened areas in tooth enamel are “filled in” and reinforced with various substances. This halts the process of decay by denying any further bacteria and acids access to the weakened part of the enamel. Fillings can be made of composite resin, amalgamated metals, gold, silver or glass ionomer. Dr. Becker will consult with you to decide which material would work best for your teeth.
It is far simpler to prevent cavities than it is to repair them once you have them. The American Dental Association recommends brushing after every meal or at least twice daily with a fluoride-infused toothpaste to remove plaque and bacteria from your teeth, decreasing your risk of cavities. Dentists also recommend reducing your intake of carbohydrates while increasing the amount of water you drink. This is because a dry mouth can speed up the acidic breakdown of your teeth.
Just as important as maintaining an oral hygiene regimen at home, attending regular check-ups and cleanings at your dentist’s office is an essential part of cavity prevention. For those patients in Ellicott City, MD, call (410) 415-9013 or schedule an appointment online to consult with Dr. Becker at Howard County Smiles. If you think you may have a cavity or would just like to schedule a routine examination or cleaning, contact us today!