Everything You Should Know About Dental Cavities

Dental cavities are small holes that develop on tooth enamel as a result of decay. Also known as dental caries, the areas of decay often result from a combination of factors that could include genetics, diet, the presence of bacteria, and oral hygiene habits. Once formed, a cavity will continue to grow until it is professionally treated. 

Dental caries are especially common in children and older adults. If you have experienced the recent onset of toothache or heightened temperature sensitivity, you may have one or more cavities. The small holes can be cleaned and sealed at our McAllen dental practice by Dr. Joon Baek. Once the straightforward treatment is complete, you can enjoy restored oral health and the cessation of any discomfort that was caused by the cavity. 

How Do Dental Cavities Form?

Cavities result from tooth decay. To understand the root cause of tooth decay, patients should understand what plaque is. Dental plaque is a sticky biofilm that coats your teeth. The coating continually forms but can largely be maintained by observing good oral hygiene habits. Over time, plaque can harden into tartar, which is more difficult to remove. 

Plaque consists of saliva, food particles, and bacteria. As the bacteria eat the sugars in your mouth, they release trace amounts of acid that leach minerals from the surface of your teeth. Over time, these small erosions outpace your tooth’s ability to remineralize and small holes form. Once a cavity forms, it becomes easier for bacteria and decay to continue eroding your enamel. 

Risks for Untreated Dental Cavities

Eventually, the cavity will reach the more sensitive inner pulp of your tooth. The pulp then swells and becomes irritated from the bacteria, which causes pressure and pain. The discomfort can radiate outward to your face and jawbone. 

Complications that can arise from dental cavities include:

  • Toothache
  • Swelling or pus around a tooth
  • Broken teeth
  • Difficulty chewing 
  • Heightened temperature sensitivity
  • Sensitivity while eating

One of the more serious complications that can arise from an untreated cavity is a tooth abscess. The pocket of pus within the tooth can require an emergency root canal or tooth extraction. A tooth abscess is particularly dangerous because the injection can spread to the jaw and bloodstream. 

Why Is Preventing Cavities so Important? 

Prevention is always preferable to treatment, and early treatment is preferable to more invasive procedures. Dr. Baek recommends that his patients visit Top Dental twice a year for dental cleaning and exams. During these visits, Dr. Baek will look for signs of decay. 

If he finds a cavity, the area of decay can be treated and restored using dental fillings. Often, this treatment can be performed quickly and with little to no discomfort on the part of the patients. Addressing cavities while they are in the early stages of developing can save you time and money down the road.

Approximately 91 percent of adults in the United States (ages 20-64) had one or more dental cavities in 2011, according to the Centers for Disease Control. While dental caries are common, they are a serious oral health problem that is both preventable and highly treatable. 

Schedule Your Cavity Treatment Today

By practicing good oral hygiene habits and scheduling twice-a-year dental cleanings and exams, you can stay ahead of the damaging effects of dental cavities. If you need one or more dental cavities treated at our McAllen dental practice, please contact our office online or call (956) 618-5811.