How do Cavities Start?

Over 90% of Americans over the age of 20 have had cavities at some point in their life.  In addition to this staggering statistic, nearly 30% of Americans over 20 have untreated cavities. These numbers are incredible given the fact that with preventive care most cavities can be avoided. So how exactly does a cavity start?

Cavity in a premolar tooth.

The outer layer of a tooth is covered in the strongest substance in the human body, enamel. Over time and without care enamel can still be eroded by acid. When we eat sugary foods, the cavity-causing bacteria in our mouths feed on the sugar as well. As a result they produce acid, which over time wears away the enamel and creates a cavity. This is why removing as much plaque as possible each day is imperative to preventing cavities. There are many factors that increase the risk for developing cavities. These include but are not limited to: 

  • Poor home care
  • A high sugar diet
  • Lack of dental care
  • Frequent snacking
  • Xerostomia (dry mouth)
  • Low exposure to fluoride
  • GERD
  • History of cavities
  • Eating disorders

A cavity often begins with a hyper-white and chalky or brown appearance, this is called demineralization. During this stage, with increased fluoride and good home care, the enamel can still be remineralized. Once the cavity has progressed through the enamel and into the softer layer of tooth (Dentin) it cannot be reversed and will begin to progress more quickly. Without treatment, the decay will eventually reach the pulp chamber of the tooth. This is where the nerve and blood vessels of the tooth lie. If the decay infects the nerve a root canal is required to save the tooth. After a root canal a crown is indicated to provide strength to the tooth and prevent it from fracturing. 

There’s a good chance your part of the 90% of Americans who have had a cavity or two filled in their life.With routine wellness visits we can identify your risk factors, and our dentist and hygienist can formulate a plan to prevent future cavities. If you start to see or feel any signs of a cavity please call us! The sooner we can treat a cavity the better the prognosis and we can then determine what steps can be taken to prevent new cavities from developing. 

Stages of a cavity.

References

Dental Care
https://www.dentalcare.com/en-us/patient-education/patient-materials/what-causes-cavities

Mouth Healthy
https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/dental-care-concerns/how-do-we-prevent-cavities

National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research
https://www.nidcr.nih.gov/health-info/tooth-decay/more-info/tooth-decay-process

American Dental Association
https://www.ada.org/en/press-room/news-releases/2015-archive/may/new-cdc-data-on-adult-cavities#:~:text=Ninety%2Done%20percent%20of%20Americans,over%2020%20have%20untreated%20caries.

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