FAQ: What Causes Cavities?

tooth grinding herndon va dentistHumans have two separate sets of teeth during their lifetimes: primary and secondary, or baby teeth and adult teeth. Once the adult teeth erupt, it’s important to take care of them, because they don’t come back. The most common threat to the longevity of your teeth are cavities, but they’re easily prevented. Learn more about cavities with Dr. Mark Jefferies, a family dentist in Herndon, VA.

What Is A Cavity?

Cavities are another name for spots of tooth decay on our teeth where tooth enamel has weakened and broken open, exposing the sensitive soft tissues and nerves within. This opens up your tooth to bacteria which can cause infections as well as creating sensitivity to temperature and touch and can even cause difficulty chewing properly. This limits your dietary options and can cause you to not get all the nutrients you need. Cavities are the most frequently diagnosed ailment with which humans suffer after the common cold.

How Do Cavities Form?

Our mouths contain live bacteria, most of which is harmless and actually helps with digestion. However, some bacteria form plaque in places that are hard for us to clean such as in between teeth and right at the gum line. When we eat foods that contain carbohydrates such as sugars or starches, the bacteria in our mouths break these components down. This creates acids that bind to the plaque already on our teeth and eat away at their enamel.

How Are Cavities Treated?

Cavities are usually treated by your dentist with fillings. In this process the holes or weakened areas in tooth enamel are reinforced with various substances. This stops the decay by denying any further bacteria and acids access to the weak part of the tooth. Fillings can be made of composite resin, amalgamated metals, gold, silver or glass ionomer. Dr. Jefferies will consult with you to decide which route would work best for your teeth.

How Can I Prevent Cavities?

As with many things, it’s easier to take care of something than to fix it once it breaks. It’s the same with cavities. Brushing after meals or at least twice daily with a fluoride toothpaste is recommended to remove the plaque that may have formed. Dentists also recommend cutting down on carbohydrates and keeping yourself properly hydrated. A dry mouth can accelerate the acidic breakdown of your teeth. Daily flossing helps clear away the plaque and prevent the formation of cavities in those hard to reach spaces between your teeth.

The most important part of prevention is regular check-ups and cleanings at your dentist’s office. For those patients in Herndon, VA, call our office at (703) 570-1152 or schedule an appointment online.