The chance of developing a cavity that requires repair increases with each year of life. By age 30, more than half of all adults have some form of periodontal disease. This ranges from mild gum irritation to severe issues that cause tooth loss.
Many people do not take oral hygiene seriously because they do not understand the impact of poor dental health and how it leads to the development of cavities.
How Cavities Form
The body naturally produces a film called plaque which forms over the mouth and teeth daily. If plaque is not removed, it hardens into tartar, and a substance made up of food particles and minerals from saliva. Tartar sticks to the teeth and around the gumline.
Bacteria hide and grow in areas where tartar collects. Unfortunately, those bacteria release acids that eat away at tooth enamel and soften teeth. That allows the bacteria to penetrate deeper into crevices and eventually causes holes, or cavities.
How to Prevent Cavities
Brushing and flossing are the best ways to prevent cavity formation.
First, brush twice daily using a soft toothbrush with variegated bristles. A toothbrush with hard, flat bristles may not penetrate crevices of the teeth and can even thin tooth enamel, making teeth more susceptible to cavity formation.
Also, wait to brush for at least one-half hour after drinking soda, juice, or other acidic beverages to prevent damage to the teeth.
Next, remember to floss once each day. The time of day that flossing occurs isn’t essential. Some people prefer to floss after eating to remove food particles from between the teeth; however, that isn’t the primary purpose of flossing. Flossing polishes the sides of the teeth and penetrates just below the gum line to prevent tartar formation.
How Cavities are Detected and Repaired
Cavities are detected with a dental pick, which catches on indentations in the teeth caused by acid erosion. Not every small indentation requires filling, but any pocket that is difficult to brush clean is an area where bacteria and acids can cluster and lead to cavity formation.
Because cavities weaken and deteriorate teeth beyond what is visible, when a cavity is repaired, the dentist injects a local anesthetic into the main nerve bundle of the affected area. This numbs the area against pain and allows for drilling into the weak tooth material until solid, durable enamel is reached.
The dentist then decides on a composite or amalgam filling. Composite resins harden under UV light and resemble the color of the tooth. This makes compositely preferable for visible fillings.
Amalgam fillings are a mixture of mercury and metals and have been safely used for decades for larger fillings. Amalgam is especially preferred for filling molars because it holds up better to the pressures of eating.