Cavities are the ‘common cold’ of dental problems. If not treated properly, they continue to damage the tooth, ultimately leading to tooth loss. Tooth decay develops in susceptible tooth, where acid-producing bacteria thrive because of the lack of protective fluoride.
Tooth that has grooves, fissures, and pronounced pits that retain plaque are also prone to developing cavities. Poor oral hygiene leads to plaque and tartar build up, accelerating tooth decay.
The mouth is home to a great number of bacteria, but only the types that generate acid causes tooth decay. Among the most common cavity causing bacteria is Streptococcus mutans.
Tooth Decay Progression
Tooth decay starts in the enamel, and while this progresses slowly, penetration into the second, softer, and less resistant dentin layer of the tooth causes rapid decay, which progresses toward the pulp, where the tooth’s nerve and blood supply are contained. Cavity often takes two to three years to pass through the enamel, but it can travel from the dentin to the pulp in a year.
Decay that initiates from the dentin can destroy much of the tooth structure in a shorter span of time. Smooth surface decay is a type of tooth decay that is easily preventable and reversible as it grows the slowest.
Cavity in smooth surface decay starts as a white spot, which is a nesting ground for bacteria that dissolves the calcium in the enamel. This condition is common in young adults ages 20 to 30. Pit and fissure decay, on the other hand, often starts during teen years, targeting the chewing surface of the teeth, as well as their cheek side.
Pit and fissure decay progress rapidly, especially when plaque is not properly cleaned out of cavity-prone areas. Root decay is the type that begins on the surface of the root covering or cementum, often occurring in people with receding gums.
It results from inadequate saliva flow and difficulty in cleaning the teeth’s root areas, as well as having a high-sugar diet. While smooth surface decay is the easiest to prevent, root decay is the most difficult and the hardest to reverse.
Treating a cavity before it starts hurting is important to prevent further damage to the pulp as well as to save more of the tooth’s structure. This is why it is important to detect cavities early through regular dental check-ups.
Preventing cavities is as simple as following a good oral hygiene, going on a proper diet, getting a fluoride treatment, antibacterial therapy, and having fissures sealed.