Dental cavities, or caries, are tiny holes in the hard surface of the teeth. They are caused by bacteria on the surface of teeth creating acid out of sugar. The most common culprit is a bacterium known as Streptococcus mutans.
The bacteria form a sticky film known as plaque. The acids in plaque remove minerals from your enamel — a coating of the teeth made mostly of calcium and phosphate. This erosion causes tiny holes in the enamel. Once the acid damage spreads into the dentin layer underneath the enamel, a cavity forms.
The 5 Symptoms of Cavities and Tooth Decay
Here are the five symptoms to look out for if you think you may have a cavity or tooth decay.
- Experience Pain While Chewing – The first sign of tooth decay or a cavity is usually a pain. You may feel a sharp pain in and around the tooth when chewing or drinking. Contact your dentist immediately if you experience pain, because the pain may become more severe if left untreated.
- See A Hole in Tooth or Damaged Teeth – If you can visibly see a hole or pit in your tooth, it could be a cavity. If you have recently broken a tooth or experienced any type of damage to your teeth, a cavity could soon follow.
- Sensitivity to Various Temperatures – While some individuals just have sensitive teeth, a sudden change in teeth sensitivity could be a red flag for a cavity or tooth decay. If you experience sensitivity to cold foods or hot beverages, contact your doctor to rule out cavities.
- Discoloration of the Tooth/Teeth – When a tooth becomes discolored (yellow, brown, or black), several factors should be considered in the health of the tooth. One of those symptoms of discoloration can be tooth decay.
- No Symptoms – You may not have any symptoms at all, but still have damage to the teeth or even cavities. For this reason, it is crucial to maintain proper dental hygiene and visit the dentist every six months for routine cleanings.
Learn How to Prevent Cavities
The leading cause of tooth decay is plaque and bacteria build up on the teeth. Without proper dental hygiene, a plaque film can form on the teeth causing bacteria to “stick” to the teeth. (You often know it when you feel it!) Sticky teeth mean your pearly whites have not been correctly brushed and cleaned. By brushing teeth with a fluoride toothpaste at least twice daily, you can greatly reduce your risk of plaque build-up and tooth decay. In addition to brushing, flossing in between teeth where plaque can accumulate is also essential.
Contact the dentist at Gulf Coast Dental today to schedule your next dental exam & cleaning.