How do Cavities Form?

According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, a division of the National Institutes of Health, 92 percent of all adults aged 20 to 64 have had cavities in their permanent (i.e., adult) teeth, while 26 percent have untreated tooth decay. This means that tens of millions of people currently have cavities, while tens of millions of others have had to seek treatment for cavities. Despite the fact that there are a variety of excellent restorative dentistry options available to return even the most badly damaged mouths to optimal health, many people choose to live with cavities, which remain one of the nation’s greatest health problems, oral or otherwise.

Despite the prevalence of dental caries, the clinical name for cavities, many people still do not realize how cavities form. At the Mesa practice of Dr. Wildung, Family Care Dentistry, we consider it our obligation to educate patients about their oral health so that they can become active participants in caring for their teeth and gums, especially between visits to our practice. When it comes to cavities, prevention truly is the best treatment - and knowledge is the key to prevention.

If you currently have a cavity or are experiencing tooth pain that may be related to a cavity, we can help restore your mouth to optimal health. Even if your mouth is in perfect health, you should visit the dentist twice a year for professional cleanings and thorough exams. Either way, we urge you to visit Family Care Dentistry today.

How do cavities develop?

A cavity is a hole that develops in a tooth. Although it may seem as though it appears out of nowhere, it takes time for a cavity to develop, usually as the result of the buildup of bacteria on a tooth. Some people are genetically predisposed to cavities, while others develop them as the result of illness or trauma. However, in most cases, people develop cavities due to poor oral hygiene. Even those who brush and floss their teeth regularly can develop cavities if they:

  • Do not use proper brushing techniques: Using too much force to brush or using a hard-bristled toothbrush can cause damage to the enamel that protects the teeth. Once this enamel is penetrated, a cavity can form.
  • Fail to visit the dentist regularly: Bacteria can hide in places where toothbrushes and floss cannot reach. Only dental professionals can remove these bacteria. If they are not removed, cavities can occur.

In general, a cavity will develop when:

  1. The dentin layer of a tooth becomes exposed due to the erosion of the protective enamel layer. The dentin is nowhere near as strong as the enamel.
  2. Bacteria and other destructive forces such as acids, plaque, and tartar eat away at the dentin, causing holes to form.
  3. These holes grow larger until the decayed portion of the tooth is removed. If the decayed portion is not removed, the root canals inside of the tooth will eventually be exposed. At this point, urgent treatment will be necessary to relieve pain and salvage the tooth. Without treatment, the tooth will eventually die and fall out.

Fortunately, in their earliest stages, cavities are relatively simple to treat. Once the decayed portion of the tooth is removed, it can be replaced by an inlay, onlay, or tooth-colored filling. If the decayed portion is too large for such a restoration to be supported, then Dr. Wildung will instead conceal the entire tooth with a custom-crafted dental crown.

Learn More about How Cavities Form and Can Be Treated

To learn more about how cavities form and can subsequently be treated, please contact Family Care Dentistry today.

Aaron Wildung