Dental cavity is a hole in a tooth and is one of the most common dental problems we face in our lifetime. As per a WHO report, 60–90 per cent of school children and nearly 100 per cent of adults have dental cavities worldwide, often leading to pain and discomfort.
Our mouth is a busy playground for bacteria. Tiny colonies of living organisms are constantly on the move on your teeth, gums, lips, and tongue. While having bacteria in your mouth is a normal thing, some of the bacteria can also be harmful which play a crucial role in the process of tooth decay. Tooth decay happens when certain types of bad bacteria use the sugars from the food we eat to make acids. This acid can dissolve the minerals that make your tooth enamel hard. It makes the surface of the enamel porous — tiny holes appear. After a while, the acid causes the tiny holes in the enamel to get bigger until one large hole appears causing — dental cavities.
The entire process of tooth decay is a long one, the nerve fibres through which pain is sent to the body, aren’t present in tooth enamel. This explains why when the acid is attacking the enamel, you can’t feel a thing. Once the acid has begun to create a cavity and attacks the dentin under the enamel, the nerve fibres begin to send out a message that something is wrong. But by then, you have tooth decay.
If you follow the below mentioned basic at-home oral care you should be able to prevent cavities.
• Brush twice daily
• Use a fluoride based toothpaste
• Limit between-meal snacks. This reduces the number of acid attacks on teeth and gives teeth a chance to repair themselves
• Limit your sugary food and fruit juices for special occasions
• Make sure you don’t eat or drink anything with sugar after bedtime tooth brushing.
However, it is equally important to have a professional teeth-cleaning once every six months, including dental X-rays and a dental exam annually to detect cavity development.
Additionally, you can also get dental sealants to help avoid a cavity. Sealants is a very thin plastic like coating painted onto the chewing surfaces of the back teeth, or molars.
Here’s how sealants work: The chewing surfaces of back teeth are rough and uneven because they have small pits and grooves. Food and bacteria can get stuck in the pits and grooves and stay there a long time because toothbrush bristles can’t easily brush them away. Sealants cover these surfaces and forms a barrier that protects teeth and prevents food and bacteria from getting trapped there.
Since most cavities in children and adolescents develop in the molars (the back teeth), it's highly recommended to get these teeth sealed as soon as they come in.
Can a cavity be repaired once it is formed?
Yes, they can be but once a cavity is formed the only way to repair it is by filling the cavity with a suitable restorative material. Generally, 30 minutes to one hour session will be sufficient to fill a tooth cavity.
There are two basic materials that can be used to fill cavities in the back teeth: silver amalgam and composite resin. The composite resin holds a slightly more edge over the silver amalgam as composites are tooth coloured. The resin colour closely matches that of a natural tooth, making this option much more aesthetically pleasing. Once the light cured composite resin filling is properly created and well maintained it can provide the patient with a strong, long lasting, and aesthetically pleasing restoration.
Teeth with very deep cavities which have involved the pulp or nerve tissue of the tooth will require root canal treatment.
Doctor’s recommendation for a cavity free teeth: Maintain good oral hygiene, invest time for a professional teeth-cleaning every six months, and have X-rays, and a dental exam annually to detect cavity development.
Dr Vijayalakshmi Sundarraj (BDS) is dental surgeon at Al Wassan Clinic