You’ve probably been hearing about cavities since you were a child: From parents to TV commercials, there are plenty of warnings about what can happen when a person doesn’t have a good oral hygiene regimen.
But other than basic information, how much do you truly know about cavities? How common are they? How do you know if you have one? Is bleeding a sign that you have a cavity?
What is a Cavity?
Teeth are composed of several layers:
Enamel. This is the exterior layer; what you see when you smile; the surface you clean when you brush your teeth. It’s the hardest component in the human body (how’s that for a good trivia question answer?) and If you lose it, it won’t grow back.
Dentin. Dentin is the middle layer of the tooth. Patients who suffer from tooth sensitivity are usually feeling temperature changes and food acidity through the enamel. This can happen if there are tiny cracks in a tooth from over brushing, or a chipped tooth.
Pulp. This is the center layer of the tooth, and is full of soft tissue, such as nerve endings and blood. It goes from the middle of the tooth to well below the gum line.
When a person doesn’t have optimal oral hygiene, bacteria in foods and plaque will cause the tooth enamel to soften. Left untreated, it can cause a hole in the tooth (a cavity). With the passage of time, these holes or cavities will become larger. If it reaches the pulp, it will cause significant pain.
What Causes Cavities?
Cavities are often the result of poor oral hygiene. When you eat, carbohydrates and sugars in foods leave behind a film that covers your teeth. When mixed with saliva, it turns into acids. Failing to brush your teeth regularly allows opportunity for these acids to develop into plaque.
Because these particles get stuck between your teeth, it’s essential to floss in addition to brushing your teeth. When a person doesn’t brush and floss regularly, plaque will start dissolving the tooth enamel.
Another cause of cavities is acid reflux disease, since acid from your stomach can also erode tooth enamel.
Symptoms of a Cavity
During the early stages of a cavity, you may not have any symptoms. This is why it’s so important to see the dentist regularly. However, once the cavity becomes more serious and reaches the dentin, the patient may experience the following:
– Pain when chewing foods
– Tooth sensitivity
– Bad breath
– Bad taste in mouth
– Dark spots on the tooth
– Visible holes in a tooth or teeth
– Tooth pain
Do Cavities Bleed?
Cavities can cause irritation around the infected tooth, so yes, when you brush your teeth, it may cause the affected area to bleed.
Another factor that may cause a cavity to bleed is if the tooth decay has already reached the pulp. In this case, brushing will become painful.
If you have a cavity that’s bleeding, you should schedule a dental appointment as soon as possible. Failing to do so may result in complications, such as a tooth abscess, sepsis, or bacteria entering your bloodstream.
3 Dental Treatments for Cavities
The best way to prevent cavities is having good oral hygiene (brushing at least twice a day, flossing every day, limiting (or completely eliminating) sugary snacks, and visiting the dentist regularly for cleanings.
But if you already have a cavity, there are different treatments available, depending on the severity of the tooth decay. The longer you wait to seek medical attention, the worse the cavity becomes.
Some of the most common treatments include.
1. Fluoride. This is the most conservative of cavity treatments and is only useful if the cavity is relatively recent. The dentist will apply fluoride in gel form to the tooth to restore the enamel.
2. Root canal. This procedure involves eliminating the decaying portion of the tooth pulp in order to (a) relieve pain caused by the cavity, and (b) to save the tooth from being extracted.
3. Tooth extraction. Taking out the tooth is only necessary if the cavity has already reached the pulp and a root canal has been ruled out. When this happens, the dentist will instruct the patient on how to best take care of the gum while it’s exposed, and make plans for a replacement tooth.
Contact Impeccable Smiles for Dental Treatment and Care in Tampa
At Impeccable Smiles, it is our mission to ensure that our patients feel as comfortable as possible. If you have any oral health issues that need to be addressed, or if you haven’t been to the dentist in a while, let us help you.