If left untreated, cavities can lead to infection, tooth loss, root canals, crowns, implants, and more. Understanding how to identify a cavity in its early stages means more time for preventative measures to protect your teeth from decay.
92 percent of adults have cavities, or small holes in the tooth enamel. If left untreated, cavities can grow, penetrating the enamel to affect the dentin that leads to infection, tooth loss, root canals, crowns, implants, and more. Knowing how to check for cavities at home enables you to take preventative measures to protect your teeth from decay, saving you from pain and expensive procedures in the future.
The Basics About Cavities
The most common culprits behind cavities are excessive sugar consumption and poor oral hygiene. When bacteria in your mouth interact with starches or sugars, they form acids that erode your teeth’s enamel. If left unchecked, the bacteria may reach your tooth’s dentin and pulp before spreading to other parts of your mouth.
The longer you wait to treat your cavity, the more damage the decay will cause. Once the decay has penetrated your enamel, you’ll likely need a filling, and if you have extensive decay, you may need a crown, root canal, or extraction.
Cavity Symptoms to Check For At Home
Knowing the signs of cavities can help you take appropriate steps to prevent them from worsening. There are no universal cavity symptoms, as they depend on a cavity’s size and location — in fact, some people may not even experience any symptoms! However, there are a few common things you can check for at home.
Tooth pain is a common cavity symptom. However, it may vary in severity, depending on how far the decay has progressed. If your cavity is still in the early stages, you may just feel pain when biting something hard. However, as the decay continues to grow, you may start experiencing pain while chewing soft foods before the irritation becomes constant.
Your enamel is responsible for protecting your teeth’s nerves, so you may start to notice a tingling or tickling sensation as bacteria erodes your enamel. Your teeth may be particularly sensitive while consuming hot, cold, acidic, or sugary foods and drinks.
If you’ve noticed holes in your teeth, you should see your dentist, as you likely have a cavity and will need fillings or a root canal.
Bad breath may just be a sign that you ate something particularly strong for lunch, but it can also indicate something far more serious. Persistent bad breath may be a sign that the decay has penetrated your tooth’s enamel.
Swollen or Bleeding Gums
Having swollen, raw, red, or bleeding gums is another common sign of cavities. However, swollen or bleeding gums can also indicate periodontal disease or an abscess. A result of bacterial infections, abscesses can cause fever, swollen glands, pus leakage, and pain. Abscesses are serious, as the bacteria can spread to other areas, so it’s important to see a dentist as soon as possible.
Gray, brown, or black spots on your tooth are also common indicators that bacteria has weakened your enamel. If you notice any chalky white spots, this is likely a sign of demineralization, one of the early stages of tooth decay.
A Chipped Tooth
Chipped teeth can be caused by several things, including falls, contact sports, grinding, and hard foods. A tooth weakened by a cavity will break more easily, and a chipped tooth can also lead to tooth decay.
Preventing and Treating Cavities At Home
Once you know the signs of a cavity, you can take steps to stop the spread of decay. There are even preventative measures you can take to protect your teeth from cavities. Here are a few ways to prevent and treat cavities at home:
- Chewing Sugar-Free Gum: Chewing sugar-free gum containing xylitol can increase saliva production, raise plaque’s pH level, reduce Streptococcus mutans, and remineralize your enamel. Sugar-free gum with casein phosphopeptide-amorphous calcium phosphate, or CPP-ACP, is even more effective at reducing Streptococcus mutans than gum with xylitol.
- Brushing With Fluoride Toothpaste: Using fluoride toothpaste can help reduce plaque and remove tartar. Fluoride can even speed up the remineralization process, strengthening your enamel against decay.
- Flossing: Your brush can’t properly reach between your teeth, but dental floss can. Flossing can remove food particles and plaque from between your teeth, preventing gum disease and tooth decay.
- Increasing Vitamin D: Your enamel is mainly composed of calcium and phosphate. These minerals strengthen your teeth, but the acids from plaque’s bacteria can strip them away in a process called demineralization. Fortunately, increasing your vitamin D intake from the sun, your diet, or dietary supplements helps your enamel absorb calcium and phosphate, aiding the remineralization process.
- Oil Pulling: Swishing sesame oil or coconut oil in your mouth for 20 minutes can help reduce bacteria, plaque, and gingivitis.
- Changing Your Diet: Since sugar feeds the bacteria found in plaque and can lead to decay, cutting back on sugary foods is one of the best things you can do to prevent new cavities and stop current cavities from continuing to grow. Many professionals suggest keeping your sugar intake below 10 percent of your total caloric intake. Additionally, don’t snack throughout the day, as your teeth won’t remineralize.
Visit A Dental Professional Today
Brushing, flossing, oil pulling, and chewing sugar-free gum won’t completely protect you from cavities, so it’s still important to visit a dentist who can thoroughly clean your teeth with a professional-grade fluoride treatment and identify early signs of cavities.
If you’ve noticed any warning signs of a cavity, or simply want to speak with a specialist about your general dental health, schedule an appointment at Espire today.