September 10, 2016
No matter your age, cavities in your teeth can be the biggest dental problem you face. Unless you have all of your teeth replaced by dentures or All-on-4 implants, you need to be careful about cavities. In fact, many adults in Texas have at least one filling in their teeth.
Cavities are caused by harmful bacteria. They eat tiny bits of food and drink left behind in your mouth. In return, they secrete an acid that corrodes your enamel. This creates a small hole or cavity in your tooth. Most people know all of that, but here are some facts about cavities and dental fillings that you might not know.
– Carbohydrates (and all types of sugar) can help cause cavities as much as regular sugar does. Everybody knows sugar in candy and regular soda is bad for your teeth. That’s because sugar is the favorite food for the bacteria behind tooth decay. If you eat a lot of sugar, you’re helping those bacteria to grow and spread.
However, there are different kinds of sugar. You can legally call something “sugar-free” if you use sugar alcohols instead. Those are not the same as table sugar, but harmful bacteria still love it. That means eating sugar-free candy can be just as bad as the real thing. The same goes for carbohydrates. Carbs are very similar to sugar and can feed harmful bacteria too. That sports drink you love? It’s full of carbs that can encourage cavities.
– Gum disease is caused by the same bacteria that cause cavities. Even if you skip all sugars and carbs, you can still leave behind tiny particles of food and drink in your mouth. That’s why brushing and flossing are so important; it helps control those bacteria behind cavities. However, that’s not all they do. Bacteria can build up plaque and tartar on your teeth. When this is near your gumline, both will irritate your gums. Those bacteria can also live on your gums and irritate them directly.
When this happens, you have the early stage of gum disease called gingivitis. It can lead to bad breath, bleeding gums, and eventually, bone loss and lost teeth. That’s part of why it’s so important to get cavities detected and treated early.
– Dental fillings will need to be replaced eventually. Cavities do not get better over time. Even if you remove all of the bacteria causing the tooth decay, the damage to the enamel cannot be undone. Dental fillings repair the damage by filling in the cavity. Whether you have an older metal filling or a newer composite one, the filling is bonded to your healthy enamel. That’s what helps the filling stay there.
After many years of chewing and drinking, the bond between the filling and your enamel can weaken. That means your fillings can fall out. If this happens, call one of our Laredo, TX dental offices immediately.
– Fluoride is in toothpaste and drinking water because it repairs microscopic damage. You probably know that fluoride is good for your teeth, but why? Because it makes the enamel stronger. Fluoride is able to repair microscopic damage to your enamel. This makes your teeth stronger and better able to withstand damage from a cavity. That’s why most toothpaste and many city water systems include fluoride.
– If a cavity is too big, you’ll need a dental crown instead of a dental filling. When a cavity is ignored or untreated, it keeps growing. It can grow so big that a dental filling won’t work anymore. That’s because fillings need enough healthy enamel to bond with. Without it, the filling can easily fall out. In these cases, you can repair the cavity with a dental crown instead. This will seal the cavity up so it won’t get reinfected. Dental crowns also hold a tooth together and protect it.
– An untreated cavity can require a root canal to save your tooth. As discussed above, cavities do not get better over time. They keep growing larger. If they get deep enough, they can break through to the dental pulp inside. This is home to the tooth’s blood vessels and nerves. If bacteria get in there, the resulting infection is often very painful. It can also destroy the tooth from within. The only way to correct the problem is through a root canal. That’s another reason why cavities must be found and treated as soon as possible.
Cavities may be one of the more common dental problems, but it’s also one of the easier problems to repair. If you need a thorough dental exam to check for cavities, call our Junction Drive dental office at 956-242-6745 or our office on East Del Mar at 956-517-2695.