cavitiesCavities: What are they

Cavities are just like they sound—little caves or holes in the hard surface of your teeth. These are permanently damaged areas of your teeth that won’t get better on their own and if left unrepaired can be extremely painful.

Bacteria poop (seriously)

The road to cavities begins with plaque. Actually, the road to cavities begins with eating sugary starchy foods. When you eat these types of foods, such as potato chips, soda, or candy and don’t clean your teeth after, a sticky coating is left behind. Bacteria love it when you do this because that sticky coating represents a feast to them and they go to town, eating, multiplying and having a fabulous time until a clear, still sticky film, called plague forms. So, plague in a sense, is bacteria poop on your teeth. And, yes, it is as gross as it sounds. Sorry, but someone had to tell you. This isn’t great for your breath either.

But wait, it gets worse

It gets worse. The plague left on your teeth can harden under or above your gum line and become what’s called tartar. Tartar creates a shield that makes the plaque (bacteria poop) harder to remove. But wait, we’re not done. Plague contains acids. These acids suck the minerals out of your teeth and cause the enamel to erode. If left unchecked, the bacteria and acid continue eating away the surface of the tooth until it reaches the next layer, called dentin. Once erosion reaches the dentin layer, you will probably notice sensitivity in the tooth. Dentin contains tiny tubes that communicate with nerves of the teeth, so it serves as a kind of cavity alarm.

Tooth decay, a happy process: Not

 This process of eating through the enamel and dentin is also called tooth decay. It’s a cheery name isn’t it? We digress. If the tooth decay continues, the bacteria and acid will move their eroding selves beyond the dentin and toward the pulp of the tooth. There are a lot of blood vessels and nerves here. The pulp will become swollen and irritated and press on nerves. It hurts really bad.

Fixing a cavity

To fix a cavity, a dentist must remove the decay. He or she will numb your mouth, break out the drill and remove all the decay. Once the decay is all cleared out, the dentist determines how to fill that hole based on how much tooth is left. A smaller cavity can take a filling, which is just a material put into the hole of the tooth. But a severe cavity needs a crown—that’s a prosthetic tooth fitted right over the decayed one.

Prevent cavities

A better solution is to do everything in your power to prevent cavities in the first place. First and foremost, (you’ve heard this before) brush and floss every day. As we mentioned, plague is really bacteria poop on your teeth, so think of brushing your teeth twice a day as a chance to get the poop off your teeth. Ditto with the flossing. A lot of people tend to blow off flossing, but it is vital to preventing tooth decay. A brush simply can’t grab all the food hidden between your teeth.

Clingy: bad in relationships, bad in food

Also, just like some people can be too clingy or needy and should probably be avoided as potential marriage material, certain foods can be clingy and bad for you too. Starchy foods such as potato chips, pasta, breads and more, cling to your teeth and unleash the bacteria poop. Sugary sodas and hard candy do the same thing. If you do eat such clingy foods, brush your teeth really well afterward.

Fluoride is your friend

Fluoride is a mineral that helps strengthen and repair the enamel on your teeth. Regular fluoride treatments at the dentist will help prevent cavities, so will drinking (gasp) tap water. Most municipalities fluoridate their drinking water to help keep teeth strong. Bottled water is not fluoridated, so turn on the tap and let it flow.

Finally, one of the best ways to catch cavities before they are giant or even prevent them from forming in the first place, is to see your dentist regularly for cleanings and check ups.