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The Tooth Decay Process: How to Reverse It and Avoid a Cavity

Cavities are a common issue in both kids and adults. The CDC says that about one in five kids aged five to eleven has at least one untreated cavity, and 27% of Americans over 20 have untreated cavities. Unfortunately, if cavities are not treated, they can develop into an infection called a tooth abscess which requires more extensive treatment and possibly removal of the tooth.

Knowing how to keep a cavity from getting worse prevents complications for you or your child. Your dentist knows how to prevent cavities from getting worse, and in some cases, you may not even need a filling!

How Does a Cavity Happen?

A dental cavity, also known as tooth decay or caries, occurs when part of your tooth begins to decay. The decay can expand to create large holes in the teeth. Cavity side effects and complications include pain, abscesses, swelling, difficulty eating, and even malnutrition. It’s so important to practice good oral hygiene to prevent cavities and limit damage.

Cavities can form very quickly or slowly develop over time depending on their location, level of acid exposure, and the health and thickness of the tooth enamel.

Cavities form when acid from foods in your diet chips away layers of the teeth, leading to staining, pitting, sensitivity, and pain. Causes for decay might result from poor nutrition or hygiene habits, including:

  • Eating excessive sugary or highly processed foods
  • Not brushing or flossing your teeth
  • Smoking
  • Inadequate fluoride intake
  • Pregnancy
  • Mouth breathing, which contributes to dry mouth that can increase bacteria growth

Not all cavities are caused by lifestyle choices. Some are the result of one’s available diet, natural biological processes, and aging. But no matter the cause, it is important to treat cavities quickly so they do not worsen.

The Best Cavity Treatments — and Preventing Cavities From Getting Worse

If your dentist finds a cavity or tells you that your child has a cavity, don’t panic. Dental professionals know how to prevent cavities from getting worse and offer some easy solutions to stop them in their tracks. Here are two of the most common treatment options:

Option 1: Silver Diamine Fluoride (SDF)

SDF is a desensitizing agent that has recently gained prominence as a low-cost, easy-to-apply treatment that helps stop tooth decay. However, this is not a fix-all treatment. Current studies have only examined the effects of SDF on children, not adults, and the treatment can leave dark stains on the teeth.

Apart from possible staining, there are generally no side effects to using SDF, and it is safe even for very young children. Your dentist will discuss your child’s medical history and perform a thorough exam to determine whether SDF is beneficial. In some cases, certain allergies or signs of irritation mean SDF isn’t a good option.

However, for kids who are still losing their baby teeth, SDF can be an inexpensive way to save the tooth until it falls out. Current best practices recommend applying SDF bi-annually to prevent decay from spreading.

Although SDF is mostly used for children, there may be cases when adults can benefit from the treatment. Because SDF doesn’t permanently protect the tooth, we typically recommend a filling instead.

Option 2: Getting a Filling

Fillings are the most common and durable method of cavity care, as they protect the tooth from further decay. The typical American has three dental fillings, and one in four Americans has 11 or more dental fillings.

In addition to preventing further damage and tooth loss, fillings also reduce the possibility of pain and infection. Having cavities filled is typically simple and painless, and takes place right in the dentist’s office.

Types of Fillings

There are several common types of fillings, each with benefits and downsides. At Newtown Dentistry, we offer:

  • Composite or resin fillings, which use a glass or quartz filler and can be made to match the color of your tooth. They are durable and well-suited to filling small to midsize cavities.
  • Ceramic fillings (usually porcelain), which can closely match the original appearance of the tooth and are less likely to stain than composite fillings.
  • Glass Ionomer fillings. These are a blend of acrylic and glass that actually releases fluoride to help protect teeth. They are less durable than other options and may need to be replaced in as few as five years.

Cavity Prevention

Prevention is always the best medicine, and that includes dental care. You can’t reverse the decay that has already occurred, but you can take steps to prevent cavity formation and keep the decay from getting worse:

  • Brush and floss. Brush your teeth at least twice a day and after meals. Floss daily to remove the food residue that promotes bacterial growth.
  • Changing your diet to avoid cavities. What you eat impacts dental health. It is especially important for children to develop good food habits. Avoid sugary foods and drinks and eat foods that help clean your teeth. This includes fiber-rich vegetables and fruit.
  • Using sealants. Dentists can apply sealant, a plastic coating, to vulnerable teeth to prevent decay.
  • Fluoride treatments. A home fluoride rinse and fluoride treatments at the dentist’s office will strengthen tooth enamel and make teeth more resistant to cavities.
  • Seeing your dentist regularly. Keep up with regular dental cleanings for you and your child to keep your teeth healthy and to get ahead of early cavities.

If you or your child have a cavity, getting a filling is the best way to protect teeth from long-term damage and maintain a bright and beautiful smile. The team at Newtown Dentistry is committed to helping your family keep their teeth strong and healthy and they are experts in how to prevent cavities from getting worse. Whether you suspect you have a cavity, or you want to get started on the path to healthy teeth, we invite you to make Newtown Dentistry your home for dental care. We offer specialized services both for adults and for children, in a welcoming, friendly environment. Request an appointment today!

  • AUTHOR

    Newtown Dentistry

  • DATE

    July 25, 2022

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