Cavities develop as a result of tooth decay, a process that develops over time. Any bacteria in the mouth will cause damage to the enamel of the tooth, the hard protective surface. Plaque forms on teeth that contain a number of different types of bacteria. The bacteria thrive on sugars in the mouth. The plaque then attacks the enamel, removing vital minerals and wearing away the enamel so that the acid and bacteria can attack the inner layers of the tooth known as dentin. The destruction continues and the tooth continues to be eaten away over time until repairs are made.
Many people brush off cavities as being harmless even though they are painful. The truth is that there are a number of complications that can occur when tooth decay is not properly taken care of. Cavities and tooth decay must be taken seriously because they do have serious as well as lasting complications. Some complications associated with tooth decay and cavities include: pain, tooth abscess, broken teeth, tooth loss, chewing problems and serious infections. Poor dental health is now being linked to serious health complications including heart problems. Cavities can interfere with daily living on many levels, which is why seeking assistance for them is absolutely vital.
The signs and symptoms associated with cavities and decay will vary depending on the location of the decay and the extent of the cavity. When the cavity is new and just beginning to develop, the symptoms may be less prevalent than later when the cavity is more severe. As the decay grows, some of the most common symptoms will include: toothache, sensitivity in the mouth and gums, visible pits or holes in the teeth, sharp pain when eating cold, hot and sweet foods, pain upon biting down and pus around the tooth.
Tooth decay is easy for a dentist or physician to identify with a basic review of the mouth. The dentist may take X-rays to view the extent of the tooth decay or use other examinations to determine how serious the cavity is. A thorough examination of the mouth is essential to see how badly damaged the tooth is as well as to check for infection.
Treatment for cavities will depend on the extent of the cavity. Some of the most common treatments prescribed for cavities include: fluoride treatments, fillings, crowns, root canals and tooth extractions. If the tooth is so badly damaged that a tooth extraction is necessary, implants, bridges and other dental treatment options are available to replace the tooth with something new. This is because a missing tooth brings its own unique complications to the table.