A cavity is a hole in your tooth. Though preventable, cavities are the most common chronic oral health condition in both children and adults in the United States, according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research.
Here at 54th Street Dental, we see a lot of cavities that require fillings or root canals. Our experienced dental expert, Dr. Meriem Boukadoum, wants you to know what causes cavities so you can take steps to prevent them.
About your cavities
The enamel that forms the surface of your teeth is the hardest substance in your body. Its primary function is to protect the more sensitive inner areas of your tooth.
Cavities are holes or cracks in your enamel. Also known as tooth decay and dental caries, cavities typically start small and get bigger when left untreated. Over time, cavities affect the structure and function of your tooth and may cause pain or an infection.
Cavities affect people of all ages.
What causes cavities?
Your teeth are designed to last a lifetime. However, about 178 million Americans are missing at least one tooth, and 40 million are missing all their teeth. Complications due to cavities are the most common cause of tooth loss.
To save your teeth, you need to know what causes cavities.
Food and bacteria
Your mouth is home to hundreds of microbes. Some of these microbes support good health, and others cause problems like cavities and gum disease.
Some of the bacteria in your mouth feed off the sugar and starches that stick to your teeth after you eat and create an acidic byproduct.
When you don’t brush your teeth after you eat, the food, bacteria, acid, and saliva in your mouth mix together and form plaque.
Plaque is a sticky substance that coats the surface of your teeth, trapping the bacteria and acid.
Erosion of the enamel
Once it’s taken up residence on your teeth, the trapped acid eats away at the enamel, creating tiny openings called cavities. In the early stages, cavities are too small to see and typically don’t cause symptoms.
We use X-rays to find and treat these small cavities. That’s why it’s so important to visit our office regularly for checkups and cleanings. When left untreated, cavities grow bigger and cause more serious dental problems that may require emergency dental care.
Taking steps to prevent cavities
Though one of the most common public health problems, cavities are preventable. Brushing at least twice a day is one of the best things you can do to prevent cavities. Brushing after each meal might be even better.
Daily flossing is also essential because it removes the plaque and food particles that get trapped below your gum line.
Your regular dental checkups and cleanings at our office also help prevent cavities. During your exam, we look for signs that indicate you may be at risk of developing cavities. Then, we help you take the right steps to prevent cavities from forming.
We can also find and treat the small cavities during your routine dental exams before they turn into serious dental problems.
Making changes to your eating habits may also improve oral health and prevent cavities. Frequent snacking feeds the bacteria in your mouth and increases the production of acid. Instead of grazing all day, have set meal and snack times and drink water in between meals.
Cavities are common, but we can treat your cavities and prevent new ones from forming. To schedule an appointment at our Midtown West, Manhattan, New York, office, call or book online.