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Why Do I Have a Cavity?

Cavities. A word we all dread. Hearing that you have one can cause a rush of emotions at the dentist’s office. Some people dread the procedure, while others feel a sense of embarrassment that they allowed this to happen to their teeth! 

Why Do I Have a Cavity?

If you do get this news, know that you aren’t alone. In fact, it’s estimated that more than 90% of adults are walking around with an untreated cavity. To fully understand what’s happening (both on the surface and below the surface of the tooth), this week we’ll break down how a cavity is formed and why it’s important to get it filled.  

Maybe you’ve heard some people lament that they’re more prone to getting cavities. As an added bonus, we’ll address that question, too—let’s get started!  

What is a cavity? 

Cavities are tiny holes in your teeth that develop from decay. Left untreated, cavities get bigger and can cause toothaches, infections and the possible loss of teeth. And as they get bigger, they affect more layers of your teeth, which is how they ultimately can become a much more serious health issue. 

Anybody can get a cavity, but you put yourself at greater risk if you don’t brush regularly or frequently consume sweets or sugary drinks.  

There are different types of cavities  

When you go to the dentist and find out you have a cavity, did you know there are actually different types of cavities your dentist is looking for? Each type of cavity has a different specialized treatment that will help restore the health of the tooth and ease any pain you might be experiencing. 

Gum line cavities are one of the variances that can occur in patents of all ages, and result from a number of contributing factors. Generally, cavities in this area are accompanied by significant pain, and if left untreated can cause serious damage to your gum line—including gum line recession. 

Another type of cavity is the described as “pit and fissure decay.” This type of decay occurs on the chewing surfaces of the back teeth. Because pits and fissures are more difficult to keep clean, they can be prime areas for cavities. As a consequence, your dentist might recommend protecting them with dental sealants (a special plastic coating that covers and seals the chewing surfaces). These cavities can be more common in children. 

Smooth surface cavities are another common type of cavity that can occur. These happen on the outside, flat surfaces of the teeth whenever bacteria is not removed and plaque consequently builds up. This is the least serious kind of cavity and can sometimes be treatable with fluoride. 

Is there a genetic component? 

As dentists, we commonly hear from patients that cavities “run in their family” and no matter what they do, we will always find one. While we think good oral health can prevent many cavities, it is true that certain populations are more susceptible than others. 

Experts have concluded there are three overarching factors that contribute to oral health: 

  • Biology 
  • Social conditions 
  • And behavior 

For example, there are certain DNA strands that make teeth able to absorb more fluoride, creating harder enamel on the surface of the tooth. Those lacking this strand may have weaker enamel, which can result in more cavities. Individuals who produce more salvia also benefit since salvia is one way to eliminate harmful bacteria in the mouth while allowing healthy bacteria a warm, moist place to thrive. In addition, salvia helps to neutralize the pH of the mouth and prevent excess acids from wearing away enamel. 

How to prevent cavities  

Aside from a stringent brushing and flossing routine, another option to help prevent cavities is the application of sealants. Children and young adults are both candidates for sealants; however, it is recommended to get them when you are younger. Since sealants protect the tooth from a cavity, it is important to seal them as soon as possible to prevent the creation of decay. Sealants provide a protective cover for your molars that are most susceptible to cavities due to their deep grooves. This easy and painless procedure can provide unmatched protection.  

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