How to prevent dental cavities from a young age?
Dental cavities or dental caries also known as tooth decay are the most common dental problems seen in people of all ages. Dental cavities are caused due to breakdown of tooth structure due to the acids released by bacteria in the mouth
If left untreated can result in infection or abscess in the tooth and even loss of the tooth.
1. What is Dental Cavity?
- A dental cavity, which is also known as tooth decay is nothing but a hole in the tooth caused by the destruction of the tooth enamel and dentin.
- It usually occurs when foods like bread, soft drinks, candy, fruits or cakes are left on the tooth surface.
- The bacteria present in the mouth release acids by digesting these foods, and the acid released causes the destruction of the tooth structure.
- If untreated dental cavities can lead to pain, infection or in some cases there can be loss of the tooth.
2. Dental cavity: what are its signs and symptoms?
You may not experience any symptoms when the dental cavity is just beginning, but as the extent of the dental cavity increases and grows bigger it may cause some signs and symptoms including,
- Spontaneous pain in the tooth
- Sensitivity in the involved tooth
- On consumption of hot or cold beverages or having sticky foods like sweets, there may be sharp shooting pain in the tooth with dental cavity
- Teeth with visible holes and pits
- Pain on chewing the food.
3. Dental cavity: what are the risk factors?
Everyone is at risk of getting dental cavities. But there are certain factors which increase the risk, including
- Location of teeth: dental cavities usually occur in your back teeth i.e, Molars and Premolars as they have many grooves and pits. They are also difficult to clean compared to the smooth front teeth which are easier to reach.
- Foods and drinks: Consumption of foods containing starch like bread and sugar-containing foods like cakes, candy, ice cream etc will increase the risk of getting dental cavities as they stick to the teeth.
- Feeding infants before bed: when infants are fed with milk or any other sugar-containing juice with a bottle right before bed it stays on their teeth during their sleep and causes dental cities. This type of dental cavity is called nursing bottle caries.
- Inadequate brushing: after eating or drinking any sugar-containing beverages, if the teeth are not brushed it may cause plaque formation and the first stage of dental cavity begins.
- Dry Mouth: Saliva helps prevent dental cavities as it washes away the food stuck in the teeth. Certain medications, medical conditions, chemotherapy and exposure to radiation decrease the flow of saliva increasing the risk of dental cavities.
- Heartburn or Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD): In patients with heartburn there will be a release of stomach acid in the mouth which causes the destruction of enamel. This exposes more dentin to the bacteria increasing the risk of dental cavities.
4. Dental cavity: how to prevent them?
Maintaining good oral and dental hygiene helps prevent dental cavities. Some of the tips that may help prevent dental cavities include,
- Brushing your teeth twice daily or after every meal using fluoridated toothpaste helps prevent dental cavities.
- rinsing your mouth daily at least twice with fluoride-containing mouthwash will help prevent dental cavities.
- Visiting your dentist regularly will help detect dental cavities at the early stages and getting a professional cleaning done at least twice a year will help prevent dental cavities
- In people with a high risk of dental cavities dentists may suggest periodic fluoride applications, especially in people who aren't getting enough fluoride from drinking water.
- In patients who are highly susceptible to getting dental cavities due to some medical conditions, special mouthwashes with antibiotics are recommended which helps reduce the number of harmful bacteria in the mouth.
- Using fluoride-containing toothpaste, antibiotic mouthwash and chewing Xylitol-based gums helps prevent dental cavities.
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5. How to prevent dental cavities at a young age?
Good dental care begins before the eruption of the first teeth. Here are some tips on how to maintain oral health and prevent the occurrence of dental cavities from a young age.
- Even before the eruption of the baby’s first tooth, the mouth should be cleaned by running a clean and damp washcloth over the gums to remove any harmful bacteria
- After the eruption of the first tooth, brush it using an infant toothbrush and fluoride-containing toothpaste.
- When two or more teeth erupt that touch each other they can be cleaned using dental floss.
- Kids under the age of 8 should be supervised while brushing to avoid swallowing toothpaste.
- Dental sealants: sealants are the protective layer of coatings applied on the chewing surface of back teeth. It is recommended to apply dental sealants right after the eruption of the permanent molars. They seal the grooves preventing food accumulation which in turn helps prevent dental cavities
Preventing dental cavities is a crucial aspect of maintaining good oral hygiene. The most effective methods to prevent dental cavities are brushing twice, flossing, rinsing with mouthwash and having regular dental visits and getting a professional cleaning done twice a year, additionally, reducing sugar intake and maintaining a healthy diet. By incorporating all these habits we can maintain our oral health and prevent dental cavities for years to come.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. How to know if I have a dental cavity?
- The symptoms may vary depending on the stage of the dental cavity. There may be discoloration of the involved tooth, pain on chewing or on the consumption of hold or cold beverages.
- Any presence of pus accumulation indicates the presence of infection and needs to be treated immediately.
2. How are dental cavities treated?
- If the dental cavity is detected at an early stage then it can be treated with a dental cavity filling.
- The dentist will remove the decayed tooth structure and fill will cavity-filling material like composite or glass ionomer cement.
- If the dental cavity is extended to a deeper layer then root canal treatment may be required followed by the placement of crowns.
- In extreme cases of infection, the tooth may have to be removed which can later be replaced by an implant or bridge.