“It can wait.” That’s what you may be thinking (to yourself) after you’ve learned from your dentist that you have a cavity. The truth is (and we know your dentist will agree), it shouldn’t wait.
Tooth decay doesn’t get better. It only gets worse. Here’s why you should take care of that cavity sooner than later.
The Start of Tooth Decay
It all begins innocently enough. You don’t even know it’s happening. You eat something. Then, bacterial plaque forms on your teeth and uses the food you ate to create acids. These acids slowly break down the hard enamel covering your teeth. The decay penetrates through your tooth layers. And, voila. You have a cavity.
Signs and Severity of Tooth Decay
At first, you won’t even notice you have a cavity. After all, you can’t see a cavity. And at this stage, it won’t hurt.
However, once the decay makes it through your tooth’s enamel and reaches the dentin layer, ouch! You’ll know it. Your dentin is made up of tiny nerve endings sensitive to hot, cold, sweet, sticky, and sour foods. It may also be uncomfortable when you’re biting down or chewing. That’s because food is getting trapped between your teeth.
Decay spreads fast through dentin because it’s much softer than your tooth enamel. Root decay happens quickly too. That’s why your pain will become more severe and frequent.
If the decay and bacteria reach the pulp portion (nerves and blood vessels) of your tooth, you’ll get an infection known as an abscess. An abscessed tooth can lead to a serious infection that can affect other parts of your mouth, including your jawbone. Symptoms of an abscess can include:
- Gum redness
- A bad taste in your mouth
- Puss drainage
Tooth Decay Treatment
Your treatment will match the extent of the decay. If your dentist catches the problem early – a small area of enamel erosion before it reaches the dentin, he or she may recommend a repair treatment – maybe even at home. Mouthrinses, toothpaste, or filling materials that contain fluoride, calcium, and phosphates may be your solution. These would be thought of as early decay cavity prevention treatments.
If you’ve developed a small cavity, it can be repaired with a filling (tooth-colored resin) If the cavity is large and your tooth has lost structure, your dentist may decide you need a crown. Crowns are more expensive than fillings, but they strengthen your tooth and restore shape and function.
Regular dental appointments and good oral hygiene care at home, including brushing and flossing between your teeth, may keep you smiling and cavity-free even longer.