A cavity develops in a tooth when bacteria in the plaque on your teeth digest sugar, producing acids that dissolve minerals from the tooth enamel.
If the plaque is not removed and your teeth suffer repeated acid attacks, the enamel softens and breaks down and a cavity begins to develop. If the cavity is not filled early enough, it continues to grow, reaching the dentine underneath the enamel and, finally, the nerve of the tooth.
What causes cavities?
Some people develop cavities more easily than others, but the process is always the same. Caries bacteria residing in dental plaque feed on sugar, causing an acid attack that damages your teeth. You can prevent cavities by taking good care of your teeth, but maintaining a good dental hygiene is not always easy.
What is a microcavity?
A microcavity (or incipient cavity) means that the tooth enamel is already damaged and softened, but the cavity is still limited to the enamel and has not yet reached the dentine. If you clean your teeth well, reduce your intake of sugar-containing food and drink and use fluoride and xylitol products according to your dentist’s instructions, the softened enamel may harden to some extent, stopping the development of the cavity. However, you must have microcavities regularly checked by a dentist.
Why are some people more susceptible to cavities?
Some people are more prone to caries and tartar buildup than others. For instance, the composition of your saliva can make you more susceptible to caries. Pregnancy, diabetes, certain medications and some systemic diseases reduce saliva production or change its composition, contributing to the development of cavities. People who do not clean their teeth carefully or have spaces or grooves in their mouth that easily trap food are also more susceptible to caries.
The dentist tells you how often you should have your teeth checked and explains good teeth cleaning routines. Your personal history also tells you something about your susceptibility to cavities. If your dentist has always found several cavities in your mouth, you are clearly a caries-active person. This means that you should clean your teeth extra carefully and have your teeth checked more frequently. Treating the cause is always more efficient than just treating the consequences.
Symptoms caused by cavities
The symptoms caused by dental cavities are individual. A large cavity does not necessarily cause any symptoms. You will not necessarily experience toothache until the cavity has reached the dental nerve.
Treatment of dental cavities
A cavity is usually filled. The dentist removes the decayed part of the tooth and fills the cavity with filling material. If the cavity has reached the dental nerve, you need root canal treatment. The cavity may also be so difficultly situated or so large that filling is not possible and the tooth must be removed.
How can I prevent cavities?
The best way of preventing cavities is to clean your teeth carefully, have regular meals, avoid snacking and see your dentist regularly. Use an electric toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste and brush your teeth twice a day, morning and evening. Your teeth need fluoride. Therefore, aloe toothpaste or other organic toothpastes are not necessarily enough. Remember to also clean between your teeth. You should not eat more than five times a day. When you are thirsty, drink tap water or plain mineral water.
Your dentist will tell you how often you should have your teeth checked. The check-up interval may range from six to 24 months. The most common interval is 12 months.
The Digital Clinic for dental and oral health is also open every day of the year.
Protect children from caries bacteria
Parents of small children should keep in mind that dental caries bacteria are infectious and transmissible. The longer a child’s teeth and the beneficial bacterial strain in the mouth develop without the presence of caries bacteria, the better the oral health of the child. A caries infection in a child under two years of age increases the child’s susceptibility to cavities. If the caries bacterium accesses a child’s mouth during primary teeth eruption, it can easily gain a foothold. If the child does not have caries until the age of four or five, the bacterial strain in the mouth is already relatively strong and caries bacteria cannot cause damage so easily. For this reason, you should never put the child’s pacifier or spoon into your own mouth or kiss the child on the mouth.
The expert consulted was Chief Dentist Johanna Rouhiainen.