Cavities are prevalent and second only to the common cold when it comes to human diseases. Even people who brush and floss twice a day every day can still get a cavity due to diet, genetics, and so forth. Another issue is that tooth decay can sneak up on you. The American Dental Association (ADA) warns that cavities have little to no symptoms associated with them early on. Decay is generally caused by plaque that forms on teeth and secretes acid, and it takes time for these acids to erode your tooth enamel.
The Indications of Tooth Decay
According to the Academy of General Dentistry, acids must erode through your enamel and expose the underlying dentin before you experience sensitivity and pain. Enamel is the hardest tissue in the human body. It protects the dentin, which comprises many nerve endings that are sensitive to foods and beverages that are hot, cold, sweet, sour, and so forth. The teeth can be so sensitive that even breathing cold air can set them off. Cavities often cause discomfort when biting down and chewing as well.
Dentin is not nearly as hard as enamel. Therefore, when decay reaches the dentin, it spreads faster. This is also true when decay affects a tooth root. Roots are protected by cementum, which is even softer than dentin. As the decay deepens, any pain will be more intense and occur more frequently.
Once decay reaches the tooth pulp, an infection will occur. The pulp contains blood vessels and nerves, and a tooth with an infected pulp is prone to an abscess. The ADA warns that pain from an infected pulp is intense, persistent, and likely to prevent you from sleeping. You may also experience a fever, swelling in the face, and a bad taste in the mouth. Swollen gums and pus drainage are not uncommon, and it is possible for such an infection to spread from the tooth to the jaw or elsewhere in the body.
Treating Tooth Decay
A reason regular dental checkups are so important is that your dentist can detect cavities early before the enamel is undermined. Such cavities are often as small as a pinhead, and your dentist may be able to treat it with fluoride or another filling material, such as phosphate or calcium. Your dentist may also make recommendations about your oral hygiene at home and the oral care products you use.
When the enamel has been comprised, and decay reaches the dentin, the cavity is not reversible. Minor cavities can be fixed with a filling. The old and outdated filling material was an amalgam of silver and other metals, but more recently, tooth-colored resins have become the ideal option. If decay has undermined a tooth structurally, your dentist may recommend a crown. A crown can restore the function of a tooth as well as its shape and color, but the process will cost more and be more invasive as well.
A tooth abscess is a severe scenario, and you generally only have two options: an extraction or root canal therapy. Dentists will generally prefer to save the tooth rather than extract it, but there are exceptions, such as with wisdom teeth. If you opt for root canal treatment, your dentist will remove the infected pulp, clean and possibly shape the pulp chamber and then seal it. It is often necessary to get a crown after root canal treatment due to how brittle the saved tooth can be.
The best way for you to protect your teeth is to visit your dentist twice a year, even when your teeth and gums look and feel well. If you have not seen a dentist in six months, schedule a checkup as soon as possible. If you are experiencing any sensitivity or discomfort, schedule today. Your dentist will likely want to get you in right away because any delay can result in much more serious troubles.
Act Now to Protect Your Teeth
If you have experienced the slightest indication that you may have a cavity, Jeffrey D. Clark, DDS, strongly encourages you to schedule an appointment as soon as possible. Caught early enough, a cavity can be treated, and a quick response is sure to limit your dental expenses as well as the extent of the tooth decay treatment required. There may be multiple treatment options available, and Dr. Clark can explore them all with you. Call Scottsdale Dental Excellence at 480 585 1853 to schedule your appointment.