Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Dental Cavities- Causes, Prevention and Filling Cavities

Bacteria break down the hard enamel of the teeth and this result in a dental cavity or dental caries. This is a very common disorder and affects adults and children alike. The dental cavities are basically damaged teeth that have holes in them and can be of either yellow or black colour.


Dental cavities are caused by the breakdown of foods such as sugar and starch in our mouth by bacteria. This breakdown converts the food into plaque, which is a sticky substance. Plaque attaches itself to the teeth and is commonly found on the back molars, edges of fillings and the gum line. 

When plaque is not removed from the teeth due to irregular brushing, it gets converted into tartar or calculus. This causes the formation of gingivitis and periodontitis and further causes the irritation of gums.

Within twenty minutes of eating plaque build- up starts and it can cause tooth decay as the acids present in it destroys the tooth enamel. Cavities can grow very deep and can cause tooth fracture and affect nerves. An untreated tooth cavity can cause tooth abscess and also, destroy the tooth insides, which is difficult to treat and may lead to the removal of the teeth in the worst case scenario. 

Chances of developing a tooth cavity increase by the increased intake of starches or carbohydrates and sugars. Frequent snacking on sticky foods increases the contact time of the teeth with acids. 


Symptoms do not occur when the cavity is only superficial, that is, it is not deep enough to affect the nerves or gums. But, in severe cases, the symptoms may occur and can be listed as follows-

1. Toothache 
2. Sensitivity
3. Visible pits or holes in the teeth

A cavity first appears in the form of a chalky area on the teeth and then grows into a dent or hole. Routine dental checkups with the help of explorer and dental mirror must be performed to catch this disorder at an early stage before it causes any serious problem. While a dental exam will show cavities that are visible to the eye, a dental x- ray will help in discovering the cavities that are almost invisible. X- rays are also used to detect the presence of cavities in less visible areas and corners in the teeth.


1. Oral hygiene - Proper brushing with toothpaste containing fluoride and flossing every day.
2. Dietary modification - Intake frequency of sugars and carbohydrates should be reduced. Also, milk can cheese can cause tooth decay. Chewing gum with xylitol is helpful in the prevention.
3. Dental Sealants - These are thin plastic coatings that protect the chewing surface by acting as a barrier.
4. Calcium - It is often recommended by dentists to chew on to prevent tooth decay.
5. Vaccines are also being developed for the purpose of completely eliminating tooth decay.


Treatment of a tooth cavity is necessary as it causes an immense amount of pain and the destroyed tooth never regenerates. Some of the treatment methods may involve the following-

1. Fillings - Composite resins, amalgams, porcelain and gold are used to fill the cavities to stop it from further growing in the early stages of the cavity.
2. Crowns - These are also called caps and are used in extreme situations where there is almost no tooth structure left and it is extremely weak.
3. Endodontic Therapy - Also called root canal, is done when the nerve in the tooth dies due to the decay or injury. The tooth is removed along with the blood vessels and the roots are filled with a sealing material. Then, the tooth is filled and is covered with a crown.

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