What is a cavity and how do they develop?

Written by I love my Smile Dentist Dr. De Klerk

A cavity or tooth decay is a hole that forms inside your tooth. The tooth exists out of two layers; the outside layer is called the enamel and the inside layer is called dentin. A cavity starts off as demineralization. Once the demineralization extends through the enamel into the dentin, it can no longer be reversed and can only be restored by means of a dental restoration aka filling.

How does the demineralization process start?

Plaque is a sticky substance that
adheres to the surface of your teeth.
It consists of saliva, bacteria and food
particles. If it is not removed often, your teeth are prone to demineralization where the bacteria transform sugar
and carbohydrates into acid which in turn starts to dissolve the enamel. A cavity thus starts to develop.

How do I know if I have a cavity?

The most common symptom of tooth decay is sensitivity. Especially when eating or drinking something cold or sweet. The sensation usually goes away after the stimulation has been removed. If the sensitivity or pain lingers, it might be that the decay is more extensive and that the nerve is involved. Other signs of tooth decay are; a physical hole that is seen in the tooth, discoloration or food impaction. The most common site for decay is between the teeth due to the fact that a lot of us tend to skip flossing as part of our oral hygiene routine.

 

When do I seek help?

It is safe to say that if any of the above-mentioned symptoms are experienced, you should seek help immediately. Unfortunately, a tooth CANNOT repair or recover on its own, and tooth decay will only advance if left untreated. If the signs are ignored, the nerve will eventually become involved and when this happens; more complicated and costly treatment will be required. Some people do not experience any symptoms when they have cavities. This is why it is so important to go for 6 monthly dental checkups and oral hygiene appointments.

 

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