Our teeth: They help us chew our food, nourishing our bodies, which keeps us healthy and strong. And since we use them to smile, our teeth also help to make a good first impression on others. Since they do so much for us, we really should take better care of them. Human beings grow two sets of teeth in their lives: their “baby” or primary teeth and their adult or secondary teeth. Once your adult teeth have grown in, usually by the time you reach age twelve or thirteen, it’s very important to properly care for your teeth as you won’t be getting any more teeth naturally. The leading threat to the health of your teeth are cavities.
Cavities are the official technical term for when tooth decay has weakened and opened holes in your tooth enamel — hence the name. Cavities expose the sensitive soft tissues and nerves inside your tooth, making them vulnerable to bacteria which can cause infections. If left unrepaired, cavities can cause sensitivity in the affected teeth, making proper chewing difficult, limiting your dietary options and making it hard to get proper nutrition.
Cavities are the most commonly diagnosed ailment in humans, right behind the common cold. But what causes this threat to your smile? What can my dentist do to fix them? And what can I do to prevent cavities so I don’t have them in the first place? Dr. Stacey Sparkman Hall of Williamsburg Center Dental Health in Williamsburg, VA has the answers.
Living bacteria, most of which is relatively harmless on its own, thrive in the warm and wet environment of our mouths. When food particles and saliva combine and form plaque in places that are hard for us to clean such as in between teeth and right at the gum line, these bacteria gather to feed on it. The bacteria prefer foods high in sugar or starch and when they begin digesting these particles, the acids that break down the plaque continue eating away at the enamel below.
Cavities are usually treated by your dentist with fillings — when a dentist fills in and reinforces the weakened areas of tooth enamel with various hard substances. Fillings halt the process of decay by restoring the damaged part of the tooth, preventing bacteria and acids from eating away any further. Fillings can be created with composite resin, amalgamated metals, gold, silver or glass ionomer. Dr. Hall uses tooth-colored enamel, which is both longer-lasting and less conspicuous than metal for filling small cavities. However, if the tooth requires more strength and stability, a porcelain filling may be recommended.
It is far simpler to prevent a problem than to put it right once it is here. Cavities are much the same. Brushing after meals or at least twice daily with a fluoride-infused toothpaste is advocated by the American Dental Association to remove the plaque-causing particles and bacteria.
Dentists also suggest limiting your carbohydrate intake and keeping yourself properly hydrated. A dry mouth can speed up the acidic breakdown of your teeth. Daily flossing helps remove the plaque and bacteria in those hard to reach spaces between your teeth to reduce your risk of developing cavities.
The most important part of prevention is to have regular check-ups and cleanings at your dentist’s office. For those patients in the Williamsburg, VA area, call 757.216.9873 or schedule a consultation with Dr. Hall at Williamsburg Center Dental Health. If you think you may be suffering from cavities or would just like a cleaning or consultation about another dental issue, call us today!