What Caused My Cavity and How Can I Prevent Getting Another One?

You’re not alone if you’re frustrated by dealing with recurring cavities. This condition ranks among the most common dental problems. Ninety-two percent of Americans between the ages of 20 and 64 have one or more cavities.

Early cavity detection and treatment are your best protection against complications and tooth loss. Dentists John Vellequette, DDS, and Stephanie Fung, DDS, of Smile Center Silicon Valley in Sunnyvale, California, provide professional preventative dental services along with expert diagnosis and treatment for cavities. If your cavities require fillings or other treatment, the team at Smile Center Silicon Valley can restore healthy function and appearance to your affected teeth. 

How cavities develop

When your teeth are healthy, the outermost area, called enamel, protects the underlying teeth and nerves. A cavity occurs when an area of decay develops on the enamel of your tooth. This is typically the result of a process that happens over time.

Plaque, a sticky film that contains bacteria and food debris, forms on your teeth when sugars and starches remain after eating. When plaque is allowed to remain in place, it creates an acid strong enough to destroy your tooth.

The erosion starts as small holes on the surface. As the enamel deteriorates, it exposes another layer, called dentin. This layer is less resistant to plaque. Since dentin contains tiny tubes that lead to the nerves in your teeth, tooth decay at this stage can cause sensitivity.

Left untreated, a cavity can progress deeper into your tooth’s pulp, directly affecting your nerves and blood vessels. This irritation causes compression of the nerves, resulting in pain and decreased tooth function when chewing. 

With early cavity diagnosis, a filling can save your damaged tooth and help you avoid tooth loss. When a filling is applied, the decay is removed and a silver metal or white composite material is used to fill the cavity and even out the surface of the affected tooth.

Common risk factors

While a cavity can develop on any tooth, the most common location for cavities is on your back teeth. The natural grooves and uneven surfaces of these teeth make them more difficult to clean and keep free of debris. 

Having unhealthy eating habits makes you more susceptible to cavities. Sticky, sugary foods can cling to your teeth and become embedded in nooks and crannies. Constant snacking on foods and beverages with sugary contents creates an ongoing flow of enamel-destroying acid washing over your teeth.

You may be contributing to the development of cavities if you allow oral problems to go untreated. Dry mouth reduces the amount of saliva you produce, which allows plaque to remain longer on your teeth. Allowing fillings or dental devices to deteriorate without repairs can also create welcoming environments for plaque. 

Certain medical conditions can also contribute to faster tooth erosion and cavity formation. Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or heartburn can deliver excessive amounts of enamel-destroying stomach acid into your mouth. Eating disorders associated with forced vomiting, such as anorexia and bulimia, can increase the amount of stomach acid that interacts with your teeth.

Cavity prevention

You can avoid the time and expense of dealing with cavities by taking proven precautions that protect the health of your teeth and gums. 

The most important step in cavity prevention involves brushing for two minutes two times per day and flossing daily, as recommended by the American Dental Association (ADA). 

You can support your daily routine by having twice-annual dental exams and professional cleanings. These visits allow your dentist to identify and treat any tooth or gum conditions before they worsen and require extensive treatment.

It’s also possible to reduce your risk of cavities by avoiding foods and beverages with too much sugar or caffeine. Instead, concentrate on a diet that provides natural cavity-fighting protection.

Crunchy fruits and vegetables like apples, carrots, and celery work to increase saliva production, which helps to clean your teeth and neutralize cavity-causing acid. 

Cheese, dairy products, and other naturally calcium-rich foods like spinach help to harden your tooth enamel and strengthen your jawbone. Consuming protein-rich foods like meat, eggs, and nuts provides phosphorus, a nutrient necessary to help your body effectively utilize calcium.

Prompt treatment of existing cavities and attention to ongoing cavity prevention can reduce the effects of tooth decay on your oral health. Call our office or book online today to arrange a consultation.

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