A dental cavity is a hole in your tooth that grows bigger and deeper with time due to tooth decay or wearing off. Protecting teeth from cavities requires a strict oral hygiene regimen by brushing and flossing every day to remove plaque. Seeing a dentist twice a year is vital to detect dental caries at the onset, therefore, saving you from dental issues down the line. The initial sign you notice may lead you to believe that dental caries developed overnight, but cavities can take months before symptoms can appear. Ignoring your cavities is bad for your oral health, and you are more than likely to encounter dental problems in the future. The Downey Dentist has prepared this blog on dental cavities and what could happen if they are not attended to by a qualified dentist.
What Causes Dental Caries?
Dental caries develops when microbial biofilm or plaque forms on the tooth then it's converted into acids. As this acid is deposited, it starts to erode the hard outer covering of the tooth (enamel) and eventually the dentin, leading to a full-blown cavity. Particular germs known as mutans streptococci are transmitted within families, thus triggering holes from a young age to adulthood.
Cavities are generally preventable, but according to the CDC, 36% of adults and children are not receiving care to prevent cavities and other dental problems. As of June 2018, data indicated that one in four Americans lacks access to dental insurance due to the prohibitive costs of this service. Apart from practicing oral hygiene and having access to preventative dental care, some places have a low density of oral care professions and others lack fluoridated water. A study ranking states across 25 key indicators of dental wellness placed Minnesota in the lead, and California took 34th place, which is telling about people's habits and oral care.
Nobody is immune to cavities, including children and contrary to popular belief, tooth decay is not only attributed to inadequate oral hygiene. Tooth decay is more prevalent among growing children than diabetes, asthma, and other chronic ailments. Apart from consuming sugar-rich diets, Paul Casamassimo of Ohio State University College of Medicine and Public Health faults bottled water for this increase as it usually lacks fluoride. When it comes to newborns, mothers transmit germs by sharing a spoon or allowing toddlers to use their toothbrushes and once colonies of mutans form, your child becomes prone to tooth decay.
What Happens if You Ignore Cavities?
Whether you inherited high levels of decay-causing germs or you don’t practice good oral hygiene, failure to treat cavities can lead to the following:
Once a tooth is beyond saving via a root canal, it may be already dead and on its way to extreme decay. These dire circumstances warrant a tooth extraction from its socket, and this leaves gaps in your teeth. The remaining gap may cause adjacent teeth to start shifting, but this can be avoided by installing bridges or dental implants.
Another side effect of tooth extraction is changing the relationship between your upper and lower bite, which may be uncomfortable. More so, root fragments may sink into the sinus cavity during extraction, thus leading to infection, but this crisis can be averted by timely removal of the root tip.
If having your tooth removed doesn't appeal to you in the least, there are other options to handle the decaying tooth such as deep gum treatment. This process entails treating adjacent gums to reinforce the foundations around the tooth so that there is no more decay. However, this intervention is only possible following a promising prognosis of your decaying tooth.
Your Tooth may Split
When high levels of bacteria accumulate and thrive inside and around a tooth, they are likely to leave a chasm, and the affected tooth may crack. These fractures can also result from chewing food and exerting undue pressure on a tooth already experiencing decay. A crack may extend from the biting surface down towards the root of a tooth, and sometimes it runs below the gum line, and when this happens, you are susceptible to a variety of symptoms. Firstly, you may experience sensitivity when the temperatures in your mouth change drastically, not to mention unusual pain.
Endodontists use various methods to treat a split tooth depending on the type, place, and extent of the crack but on the whole, seeking help sooner than later betters your chances of recovery. If everything goes as planned, the restored tooth continues to function normally without causing you discomfort in the years following.
Excess tooth decay that leads to cavities should not be ignored as it can lead to dental abscesses and more infections of surrounding teeth. An abscess is an upsurge of pus that forms inside teeth or gums due to a bacterial infection in the soft pulp of the tooth. A dental abscess can either be gingival, periapical, or periodontal depending on what area of the mouth is affected. They are mainly characterized by aches, a bad taste in the mouth, and sometimes you may run a fever if the bacterial infection is too far along. Being unable to open your mouth and experiencing sensitivity to cold and hot meals are other known symptoms of an abscess.
Root canals are some of the appropriate ways of handling this problem as the bacteria-rich pus is drained away and the hollow is sealed. This procedure removes infectious or decaying nerves from the base of the root, thus giving it a chance to continue thriving and functioning as desired. For a periodontal abscess, the dentist will sanitize the periodontal pocket then smoothen the root surface to block future infections. A periapical abscess may require intervention by an oral surgeon to remove the diseased tissue then reshape the gum tissue to negate future infections by germs. In addition to pain meds, the dentist may prescribe antibiotics such as metronidazole and amoxicillin to stop the bacteria from spreading to other parts of your mouth.
Risk of Nerve Damage
Teeth have these thin hollow tubes where the nerves and blood vessels are found, and when decay travels into the nerve of the tooth, you encounter unbearable pain. The pain may come and go, but as cavity burrows further into the decaying tooth, this exacerbates things, and the discomfort can last hours for days on end. Such debilitating pain could rob you of the ability to function at work, school, or other areas of your life. Do not postpone to see a dentist any longer; reach out to The Downey Dentist for an emergency consultation, so that we can diagnose the situation. The attending dentist will present viable options for addressing this problem so that you can resume normalcy soonest possible.
Susceptibility to Gum Disease
A cavity that remains unattended causes other problems now and in the future. Gum disease is a significant possibility that occurs after your gums are infected with decay-causing germs. Consequently, your gums become sensitive, become inflamed, emit a foul odor, and they even bleed when you brush your teeth. Gum recession may follow where gum pulls away from the bottom of the infected tooth leaving the root exposed. You can evade all these problems by addressing any instances of cavities as soon as you notice the symptoms.
The Infected Tooth may Die
When bacteria have festered long enough, and the infection penetrates the root, the resulting swelling stops the blood supply to the nerve of your tooth, thereby killing it. Once the nerve dies, the pain is no more, but tooth decay carries on, and eventually, you may have to yank the tooth out. A tooth that is not getting a fresh supply of blood becomes discolored to appear light brown, yellow, black or gray and this discoloration is more conspicuous with time.
Your dentist can detect a dying tooth through a dental exam and X-rays and once detected; treatment should begin immediately to prevent bacteria from spreading to adjacent teeth or infect your gums and jawbone. Maintaining a healthy diet free of excess sugars and consuming plenty of water, particularly after meals, helps to counter further decay and subsequent dying of your tooth.
Switching to an electric toothbrush is advisable as most of them have built-in features that stop you from harsh brushing, thus preventing accidental damage to your teeth and gums. As well, safer brushing habits negate gum recession which usually exposes the roots of teeth, thus making them sensitive to acute temperature changes in the mouth, dental caries, and bone loss.
Consult a Dentist Near Me
As you can see above, cavities or dental caries are common, and they have the potential to breed more problems that could necessitate tooth extraction. Dental sealants are another intervention where a thin coating of a liquid sealant is spread over teeth to safeguard them from decay for a decade or so. You can apply a dental sealant to teeth that are subjected to extensive chewing such as molars, or teeth with natural depressions and grooves. If you are struggling with cavities, make a decision to save your teeth by calling The Downey Dentist at 562-746-0350. Our team of highly experienced dentists will examine your case and determine the best way forward.