Cavities are small holes in the teeth that form as a result of decay. During the decay process, the outer layers of the teeth, known as enamel and dentin, are worn away, leaving eroded areas called cavities.
Causes of Cavities
Cavities are caused by a buildup of bacteria, food particles and saliva which combine to form dental plaque, a film that coats the teeth. Since plaque is acidic, it can attack the tooth enamel, and then the dentin, causing decay which results in cavities. Regular tooth cleaning helps keep plaque away, but decay often occurs in the back teeth which are harder to clean.
Symptoms of Cavities
Symptoms of cavities vary depending on their severity and location. Many people do not experience any symptoms when decay is just beginning. As decay progresses, however, patients may experience symptoms which include:
- Tooth pain
- Tooth sensitivity
- Pain while eating or drinking certain foods or beverages
- Visible holes in the teeth
Treatment of Cavities
Treatment for cavities depends on the severity of the condition, which is why it is important to seek medical attention as early as possible. Treatment options may include the following:
- Fluoride treatments
- Root canal
Practicing good oral health hygiene is extremely important in preventing cavities. Brushing and flossing the teeth at least twice daily is recommended.
- Medline Plus
- National Institutes of Health
- National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development
- U.S. Department of Health & Human Services
- U.S. National Library of Medicine