Dental Decay 101: What Causes Cavities?
We are a host to an unseen world of yeast and bacteria that live in our mouths. Most are good and have a beneficial purpose, but there’s also bad bacteria and yeast living in our mouths, too. Of the bad variety of bacteria, the most note-worthy one is Streptococcus mutans. This germ harms teeth by giving off an acid wash to create a home for itself inside tooth enamel. Cavities are caused by S. mutans’ acid bath.
Why Do Some People Have More Cavities than Others?
Some people seem genetically predisposed to dental decay, it’s true. But for most of us, it comes down to the number and the variety of bacteria we have in our mouths at any given time. For people with fewer cavities, the total bacterial count is low and the good bacteria have successfully kept the bad ones in check.
People with higher numbers of bad bacteria have increased damage to their tooth enamel and more cavities. Brushing and flossing is the only thing that can break apart deposits of bacteria so it can be washed away from tooth enamel. That’s why it’s so important to brush and floss your teeth at least three times a day. Regular dental cleanings and fluoride treatments to re-fortify the enamel are also key.
Treatment for Cavities: it’s important to remove decay and restore the damaged tooth ASAP. Repairing teeth while decay is small is easier and less expensive than allowing the decay to enlarge. After decay progresses to a certain point, a filling can’t treat the tooth adequately any more. It will need either a root canal or extraction.
Untreated Cavities Lead to Dental Infections
The reason we get dental infections and toothaches is because of untreated decay. When we have a cavity, it’s always best to have it fixed with a filling right away as soon as it is discovered. If left untreated, decay goes deeper and deeper and causes more destruction to the tooth. Eventually, if left untreated long enough, the decay will progress until it reaches the inner portion of the tooth and damages the nerve. The inside of the tooth (pulp) is full of nerve tissue and tiny blood vessels, which makes it the perfect medium for bacterial growth and replication.
When the pulp inside a tooth becomes infected from the bacteria of untreated decay or from bacteria in saliva, it swells. Pressure, thumping pain and facial swelling may occur. Often, the pain is severe. This stage of dental infection is known as an abscess and must be treated with antibiotics. But using antibiotics alone will not cure dental infections. They will return again and again over time, until the source of the infection is treated or removed.
Treatment for Dental Infection: antibiotic therapy followed immediately by either a root canal or an extraction of the infected tooth.