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Ask the Doctor: Cavities

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Posted: Monday, February 17, 2014 9:09 am

What is a cavity?

A cavity is a broken down tooth structure from the result of bacteria. There are natural bacteria in the mouth. Some of that bacteria is not good. When bad bacteria have the opportunity to thrive in the mouth, the bacteria colonizes and produces bi-products or acidic waste products. The bacteria can accumulate by eating a lot of sugar or by not having sufficient oral hygiene. The acid that forms is what destroys the tooth structure and can cause gum disease.

What factors promote cavities to form?

A lot of variables can contribute to decay formation. It could be your diet, could be genetics, or could even be health related influences like stomach reflux problems. The most common causes are poor oral hygiene and a bad diet. Rule of thumb is that you can eat what you want but not frequent. When eating three times a day, the saliva has time to neutralize the acids in the mouth. If you are eating or drinking constantly, the saliva will not have time to neutralize acidity in the mouth.

How do you know when you have a cavity?

Usually there is no tooth pain with cavities until the cavity becomes large. Larger cavities are sensitive to hot, cold, or sweets. The tooth may discolor or may hurt to bite down. The key is to not let it get to that sensitive point. Regular check-ups help in detecting cavities while they are small. To preserve tooth structure you need to stop the decay early. The earlier you stop the decay, the smaller the filling, which means there is less removal of the tooth structure.

When does a cavity need to be filled?

It varies for each person. The tooth has three layers. The first is the enamel, which is the hardest substance in the body. Then there is the dentin, which is the living portion of the tooth that is softer. The dentin has nutrients and potential for bacteria to thrive. Then there is the nerve, which is the center and core of the tooth. When dentists take a look at an x-ray they are looking at where there is decay in any of these three areas. Standard of care is to absolutely remove the decay and fill the tooth when the decay reaches the dentin. Depending on the dental history of the patient, the dentist may recommend to fill the tooth while the decay is isolated within the enamel. Most dentists will recommend to remove the decay before it enters the living dentin to avoid a large filling.

BellaVista DentalCare Group

Rashmi Bhatnagar

15715 S. 46th St. Suite 104

Phoenix, AZ 85048

Office: 480.598.5900

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