Did you know that an estimated 1 out of every 3 adults currentlyhas an undiagnosed cavity? In many cases, people don’t feel pain or sensitivity from a cavity until it’s larger, and even then it’s not uncommon to hold off on having it looked at. Unfortunately, waiting to see a dentist in Naples for treatment will only make the situation worse. Keep reading to learn what a cavity is and why it’s so important to have it repaired as soon as you can!
What Is a Cavity?
In literal terms, a cavity is simply a hole in a solid object. Of course, in dental terms, that translates to a hole in your tooth. Cavities form when bacteria in your mouth consume residual sugar or carbohydrates after your meals and produce acid that eats away at your enamel.
This process occurs in stages as a cavity moves through the three layers of your tooth. First, only the outer layer of enamel is affected, at which point most people don’t feel much pain or sensitivity. When the cavity reaches the softer middle layer of the tooth called dentin, it grows much more quickly and usually becomes noticeable. Finally, the cavity reaches the innermost layer that contains the pulp, nerve, and blood supply of the tooth.
What Happens If You Don’t Treat a Cavity?
Without treatment, a cavity will continue growing larger with time, progressively destroying more of your tooth. This impacts your oral health in more ways than one:
- Function– As a cavity progresses, it not only destroys more of the tooth itself, but also gets closer to the center of the tooth. If it goes untreated long enough, it reaches the pulp and results in a severe toothache and infection. If it still isn’t addressed at that point, the infection can spread to other areas (including the brain) and become very dangerous or even life-threatening.
- Appearance– A cavity also affects the way your smile looks as well. If it’s on a front tooth, it will be noticeably dark or appear stained. A severe cavity on a back tooth can eventually lead to an extraction, which not only leaves a gap in your smile but also causes problems with your remaining teeth (if you choose not to replace it).
How Are Cavities Treated?
Small or moderate-sized cavities can usually be treated with a dental filling or crown. Larger cavities that have reached the nerve of the tooth typically need a root canal. This procedure removes the infection, gets you out of pain, and saves your tooth from being extracted. However, since it removes the blood supply of the tooth, it winds up leaving it brittle or weak, so a dental crown is usually recommended to restore the tooth’s strength.
The best way to keep treatment simple and inexpensive is to see a dentist regularly so that cavities can be caught early on. By getting treatment at the right time, you can keep your smile looking and feeling great!
About the Author
Dr. Jeffrey Skupny is a dentist in Naples with over a decade of experience and a graduate of the University of Florida College of Dentistry. He always encourages his patients to come in regularly for checkups so that cavities can be found and treated as soon as possible. If you have any questions about cavities, he can be reached via his website.