- What is dental caries?
- What causes dental caries?
- Complications from untreated caries
- Dental caries treatment options
- How to prevent tooth cavities with proper oral hygiene practices
The COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing lockdowns caused many people to pause their everyday routines, such as dining out, going to the gym, and seeking non-emergency health care services, including regular dental visits to protect their oral health.
Our team at Yonge-Eglinton Dental in Toronto understands that some folks might still be apprehensive about visiting the dentist. However, it’s important to note the dentist’s office is still one of the safest, most sanitary places you can be. In addition, when you avoid visiting the dentist for routine maintenance over time, you are at an increased risk of adverse oral health conditions, such as dental caries.
What is dental caries?
“Dental caries” is a dentist’s term for what’s more popularly known as tooth decay or cavities. In essence, this oral disease refers to holes in your teeth that start small and grow bigger when left untreated.
Many cavities don’t cause any pain at first, so it’s hard to know they’re there without visiting the dentist. Early detection is crucial to stop tooth decay from growing and giving you more significant symptoms such as tooth sensitivity, tooth pain, visible holes in your teeth, or black or white tooth stains.
What causes dental caries?
Tooth cavities are caused by dental plaque, a sticky substance that binds itself to your teeth. Plaque is generally made up of bacteria biofilms, or simply collections of bacteria. These bacteria exist naturally in your mouth.
After eating or drinking foods that contain sugar, dental plaque will turn this sugar into acid. The acid produced by the dental plaque then begins to slowly eat away at your tooth enamel, which is the hard, protective outer layer of your tooth. Strong tooth enamel is needed to protect the delicate dentin, pulp, and root in your tooth. If the enamel becomes weak, dental decay can occur.
Dietary factors such as consuming too many sweet foods or sugary drinks aren’t the only way to develop dental caries; these risk factors can also cause tooth decay:
- Not following a proper oral hygiene routine that includes brushing twice daily with fluoridated toothpaste, flossing once per day, and visiting your dentist regularly
- Not getting enough fluoride
- GERD or acid reflux disease, which causes stomach acid to slowly wear down your teeth
- A consistently dry mouth that’s not producing enough saliva
- Eating disorders, such as anorexia and bulimia
In many cases, tooth decay appears more often on the posterior teeth, such as permanent molars. There are more grooves and openings where food particles can become trapped. Also, it can be harder to reach these areas with a toothbrush and floss. Your dentist or dental hygienist can help keep those problem areas of your mouth clean at every visit.
Complications from untreated caries
You may not mind putting up with a bit of pain at first. Perhaps you’re too busy to see the dentist if you suspect you have a cavity. You have another dentist appointment coming up in the next few months – can’t it wait until then?
Maybe it can – but then you’ll be risking several complications that can come from having an untreated cavity or decayed teeth, such as:
- Persistent, growing tooth pain
- Difficulty chewing food
- Infection, and developing pus around the infected tooth
- A weakened tooth that might break or chip
- Irreversible tooth damage or loss that will require replacing the tooth
Dental caries treatment options
Your dentist may find cavities during an oral exam or through the use of a dental x-ray. If dental caries is detected, your dentist will discuss the various treatment options available, depending on the severity of the tooth decay:
How to prevent tooth cavities with proper oral hygiene practices
Dental caries is very common but also entirely preventable. You can reduce your risk for tooth decay and strengthen tooth enamel by following these simple preventive measures:
- Brush your teeth at least twice per day using a fluoridated toothpaste
- Floss at least once per day
- Limit your acidic and sugar consumption from foods such as candy, soft drinks, juices, and refined carbohydrates
- Cut down on frequent snacking between meals
- Apply dental sealants
- Take dietary fluoride supplements
Adopting good dietary habits can also promote good dental hygiene, fight tooth decay, and protect tooth surfaces. Try eating more of these tooth-friendly foods to cut the potential risk of decay-causing bacteria:
- Fiber-rich fruits and vegetables, including apples, celery, and carrots
- Calcium-rich foods such as cheese, milk, and yogurt
- Almonds, walnuts, cashews, and other nuts
- Meats and fatty fish
- Sugarless chewing gum
- Unsweetened black or green tea
- Water with fluoride
Above all, be sure to visit your dentist regularly for routine preventive dental checkups. Keeping up with your dental hygiene with the help of dental professionals will reward you with a bright, beautiful smile to show the world!
Do you have concerns about dental caries in Toronto? Give Yonge Eglinton Dental a call.
At Yonge Eglinton Dental, our dental practice can help treat cavities with various safe, effective procedures that will restore your winning smile.
Call our office at 416-932-2222 or book an appointment online to get started. We look forward to seeing you!
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