Many of us are all too familiar with dental cavities β€” the slight twinges of pain throughout the day, the mild annoyance you get when your dentist mentions you have a cavity growing and you should get it fixed sooner than later 😜

But perhaps you’re less familiar with the actual causes of dental cavities.

At Coaldale Dental, we want to help you learn more about what causes cavities so you can help prevent them in the future!

What are dental cavities?

Cavities β€” or dental caries β€” are caused by tooth decay. They are small holes that form in teeth when acid (created by bacteria) in the mouth erodes tooth enamel.

The path to a cavity is a slippery slope, and it begins with those small, day-to-day choices we make. This can look like the steps below:

  1. We eat sugary/starchy foods and drinks (fruit, bread, soda, juice, milk, candy, etc.)
  2. Bacteria in our mouths feeds on these carbohydrates, eventually converting them into acids
  3. Bacteria, acid, food and saliva combine to form plaque β€” a sticky film that coats our teeth

The key here is, without proper brushing, flossing, and routine dental cleanings, that plaque sitting undisturbed on your teeth begins to dissolve tooth enamel and creates tiny holes β€” AKA, cavities.

Cavity symptoms

Though some folks are predisposed to getting cavities from their genetics, people of all ages can get them, and, there are a few main signs to watch for.

These include:

  • Toothache, mouth pain, and sensitivity to hot or cold temperatures
  • Bleeding, sensitive and swollen gums, or redness inside the mouth
  • Foul-smelling breath (halitosis) or a bad taste in the mouth
  • Facial swelling

Why you should never ignore a cavity

Left untreated, cavities not only cause a lot of pain and discomfort, but they can also eat away at your tooth until there’s nothing left to salvage. And this can mean the need for a tooth extraction. And it doesn’t stop there. Left for too long, advanced tooth decay can cause serious infection inside the tooth and beneath the gums (dental abscess) and spread throughout your entire body.

How to prevent dental cavities

Routine dental care, including daily brushing, flossing, and regular dental cleanings and check-ups combine to create the best defence in protecting yourself from tooth decay and dental cavities.

Other tips include:

  • Brush with a fluoridated toothpaste
  • Use a fluoridated mouthwash
  • Wear a nightguard if you grind your teeth at night
  • Cut back on sugary, starchy foods and drinks
  • Avoid snacking between meals
  • Get dental check-ups at least twice each year
  • Get dental sealants to help protect tooth surfaces
  • Get fluoride treatments at the dentist