Regular dental checkups are crucial for early detection and prevention of dental problems.
The bacteria in plaque produce acid which eats away at the tooth structure producing a cavity.
This may sound a bit surprising to most people, but a large majority of cavities are completely painless. This is because the outer enamel has no nerves, so only when the cavity enters the underlying dentin, then the cavity may begin to feel sensitive.
The most common symptoms are an increased sensation to cold, sweet foods or beverages. A cavity is often responsible for a tooth that breaks. The cavity weakens the tooth, especially when it forms under a filling or a tooth cusp, and can easily cause a fracture when biting down.
Patients are sometimes taken off guard when they learn that they have a few cavities but they don’t have any symptoms. It is far better to treat a small cavity than to wait until they have symptoms, such as pain. By the time there are symptoms, the cavity may have spread to infect the dental pulp, necessitating a root canal procedure or an extraction to eliminate the infection.
Regular dental checkups, at least twice a year, will greatly reduce the likelihood that a dental cavity will go undetected and spread, causing pain and infecting the dental pulp.
Cavities are detected a number of ways. The most common are clinical (visual & tactile checkup) and radiographic (X-ray) examinations.
Teeth that are discolored (usually brown or black) can sometimes indicate a dental cavity.
Dental X-rays are very useful in finding cavities that are wedged between the teeth or under the gum line. These “hidden” cavities are difficult or impossible to detect visually or with the explorer.
People who have reduced saliva flow due to diseases such as Sjogren Syndrome; dysfunction of their salivary glands; have undergone cancer chemotherapy or radiation; and who smoke are more likely to develop cavities. Saliva is important in fighting cavities because it can rinse away plaque and food debris and help neutralize acid.
People who have limited manual dexterity and have difficulty removing plaque from their teeth may also have a higher risk of forming cavities. Some people have naturally lower oral pH, which makes them more likely to have cavities.
Brushing your teeth and removing plaque at least three times a day, especially after eating and before bed. Flossing at least once a day is important to remove plaque between your teeth. You should brush with a soft-bristled toothbrush, and angle the bristles about 45 degrees toward the gum line. Brush for about the length of one song on the radio (three minutes). You can check with your dentist or hygienist on the proper brushing methods.