What are cavities and what causes them? 

What happens if cavities are left untreated?

Cavities are a common dental issue that affects individuals of all ages. Through regular check-ups and hygiene appointments at our practice in Garstang, our team can help maintain your oral health and prevent the progression of tooth decay. 

If you’re wondering, ‘What are cavities and what causes them?’ Keep reading to find out more.

What are cavities?

Cavities are holes in the teeth caused by tooth decay. If left untreated, cavities can lead to severe toothache, infections and even tooth loss. While cavities can occur across all age groups, they can be particularly common in older adults due to age-related changes in oral health.

Signs and symptoms of cavities

The signs and symptoms of cavities can vary depending on the severity of the tooth decay. In the early stages, you may not experience any noticeable symptoms, which is why it’s so important to continue attending routine check-ups. 

However, as the cavity progresses, common symptoms can include tooth sensitivity, persistent pain and visible holes in the teeth. 

How does tooth decay occur?

To understand how cavities form, it’s necessary to acknowledge how and why tooth decay occurs. It typically begins with the presentation of plaque, a sticky film of bacteria that forms on the teeth.

The stages of tooth decay include the following:

Plaque forms when bacteria in the mouth combine with saliva and food particles, forming a sticky film that adheres to the teeth.

Plaque attacks the teeth by producing acids that erode the enamel, creating an environment that causes cavities to form.

The damage caused by tooth decay can range from minor enamel damage to extensive destruction of the tooth structure, leading to significant oral health problems.

What are the common causes of cavities?

Several factors contribute to the development of cavities in older adults, including:

– Insufficient oral hygiene

Inadequate brushing and flossing can allow plaque to accumulate on the teeth, increasing the risk of cavities. 

During a routine appointment at Staina House Dental Practice, our experienced hygienists can provide personalised advice on how to brush and floss your teeth correctly – ensuring you clean even those hard-to-reach areas. We may recommend a treatment called a scale and polish, a professional cleaning that removes plaque, tartar (hardened plaque) and stains from the teeth.

– Poor nutrition

Diets high in sugar can fuel bacteria growth and contribute to tooth decay. 

Our dental hygienists can offer dietary advice, helping you to reduce your intake of sugary foods and drinks and opt for healthier alternatives instead.

– Dry mouth

Drinking plenty of water and staying hydrated throughout the day can help alleviate symptoms of dry mouth for most individuals. Our experienced dentists may enquire about any age-related factors such as medications or medical conditions that may be leading to reduced saliva production and recommend appropriate treatment options.

– Teeth grinding

Bruxism, or teeth grinding, can wear down the enamel and make teeth more susceptible to decay. One of the most common treatments for bruxism is wearing a custom-fitted mouthguard while sleeping. Stress and anxiety are also prevalent triggers of teeth grinding. Our dentists may recommend stress management techniques to help relieve your stress levels and alleviate bruxism symptoms.

– Overbrushing

Brushing too vigorously or using a hard-bristled toothbrush can damage the enamel and increase cavity risk. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush to gently clean your teeth twice a day.

– Gum recession

Receding gums expose the tooth roots to bacteria and increase the likelihood of decay. Gum recession can be caused by various factors, including overbrushing and smoking. Advice from our experienced hygienists will depend on the cause of your gum recession but could include smoking cessation guidance and tips on how to brush correctly.

– Avoiding routine appointments

Skipping regular dental check-ups allows cavities to go unnoticed and untreated, leading to further complications. Routine appointments allow our dentists to detect tooth decay in its earlier stages – when it’s easier to treat.

What happens if cavities are left untreated?

So, what happens if cavities are left untreated? Without dental care, untreated cavities can lead to:

  • Pain
  • A dental abscess
  • Chewing problems
  • Damaged teeth

How can I prevent cavities?

Preventative dentistry can help you maintain excellent oral health and avoid dental problems like cavities. By adopting preventative measures and attending regular dental appointments, you can avoid the pain and expense associated with untreated cavities.

Preventing cavities is as simple as adding a few extra steps to your at-home oral health routine. Make sure to brush twice a day for at least two minutes each time using a fluoride toothpaste. Fluoride treatments can strengthen enamel and prevent tooth decay. Clean between your teeth using dental floss to remove plaque and food debris. 

You should also limit sugary and acidic foods and drinks, and opt for nutritious options instead when possible. 

Experiencing signs and symptoms of cavities?

If you experience any signs or symptoms of cavities, such as tooth sensitivity or pain, please don’t hesitate to contact our practice to book an appointment. Additionally, continuing to attend your routine check-ups will help you stay ahead of any potential tooth decay and ensure that your smile remains healthy. 

Call our friendly team on 01995 605707 now.

T: 01995 605707