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Dental Cavities

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What are cavities?

Dental cavities are holes in teeth caused by bacteria or certain kinds of foods high in sugar, acid or starch. As bacteria eat away at your tooth, this is known as tooth decay. Cavities are also referred to as caries or decay.

How does a cavity form?

There are over 500 different types of bacteria that are normally present in the mouth. These bacteria combine with food and saliva form a sticky substance called plaque that attaches to your teeth. Foods rich in sugar and starches add to the stickiness of the plaque, which begins to harden just after eating. The longer the plaque remains on your teeth the harder it is to remove the plaque. If plaque remains on your teeth for more than a couple of days it turns into tartar or calculus. The bacteria in the plaque will convert sugar into acid that dissolves the tooth structure causing holes, or cavities. The combination of bacteria and sugar is your teeth's enemy and primary cause of cavities. Because of these factors, dental cavities have been described as a “dietobacterial” disease.

The parts of teeth that are most vulnerable to tooth decay are areas where plaque can accumulate most easily. Plaque tends to settle into the pits and pockets on top of your teeth. Plaque also likes to hide between your teeth, and next to the gum line. As plaque builds up on your teeth, the bacteria and acid eventually cause tooth decay. A cavity starts on the outer layer of the tooth know as the enamel. As the cavity gets deeper and deeper it penetrates into the softer inner layer of the tooth known as the dentin. When the cavity reaches dentin you will notice signs and symptoms of the cavity, associated with pain and discomfort.

Who is at risk of tooth decay?

Everyone is at risk of tooth decay. For the most part saliva helps prevent plaque from attaching to teeth and helps wash away and digest food particles. Brushing and flossing your teeth regularly will also aid in tooth decay prevention. However, you may be at more risk of developing tooth decay if you have a low salivary flow or dry mouth which leaves your teeth more vulnerable. Genetic factors may affect your risk of tooth decay. Tooth size and shape, thickness of enamel, tooth position, tooth eruption time and sequence, and your bite all may contribute to a higher risk or tooth decay.

Located in Brighton, CO, Dr. Jeff Poulson can help your tooth decay prevention efforts. If a cavity is found Dr. Poulson will recommend the procedure specific to your case. In may cases a simple filling will prevent further decay and relieve the pain. If the case is more serious Dr. Poulson may recommend other procedures or refer you to a specialist in the most severe cases.

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