A cavity, also known as tooth decay, is a hole that forms on the surface of the tooth and exposes the tooth’s internal layers. Cavities usually start small, mostly with discoloration of the enamel. Cavities gradually get bigger with time and can lead to disintegration of the affected tooth. Since cavities typically do not cause any pain in the early stages, most people do not know they have a problem until it is very late.
Tooth decay is the leading cause of oral health problems around the world. Tooth decay affects people of all ages, including children and the elderly. It’s important to see a dentist regularly so that they detect cavities at the formative stage, before severe tooth decay occurs.
Symptoms of tooth decay/cavities
You may experience different symptoms depending on the severity of the tooth decay. Some common symptoms include:
- Tooth pain
- Tooth sensitivity
- Discoloration of the tooth
- A visible hole deep inside your tooth
What causes tooth decay?
Tooth decay is caused by plaque, a sticky substance that binds to teeth, usually just above the gum line. Plaque is formed by a combination of acid, bacteria, saliva, and food particles. Everyone has bacteria in their mouth. It combines with other particles when we eat sugary food. Then, the acid starts to eat away the enamel (the protective coating on your teeth). Decay sets in when the enamel coating weakens.
Treatment options for tooth decay
The option that a dentist uses to treat tooth decay is usually dependent on the extent of the decay. Treatment options include:
- Tooth fillings: The cavity may be filled with substances such as gold, silver, and composite materials
- Root canal treatment, in which blood vessels, nerve tissue, and decayed areas of the tooth are removed. The dentist then attaches a crown to the damaged tooth.
- Fluoride treatment: Early fluoride treatment may be enough to restore tooth enamel if the decay is not severe.