It’s uncommon to find someone who enjoys spending his or her hard-earned money and precious time while a dentist scrapes, fills, or pulls teeth. No one says you need to walk into your dental appointment beaming with joy, but it’s important that you receive frequent checkups. For those who tend to skip dental appointments, the chances of getting cavities run high. To break it down simply, bacterial plaque forms on teeth and feeds off of the sugar in food and drinks to create acid. If left untreated, the plaque will begin to soften and dissolve the healthy, hard enamel. From there, the acid and bacteria will work their way through all of the layers of teeth, causing holes and pits, thus resulting in cavities.

While a cavity is still developing, it’s unlikely that you’ll experience any symptoms. Visiting a dentist for a check-up is a crucial step in catching and preventing cavities before they wreck irreversible damage to your teeth. Once the cavity has already formed, you may experience tooth sensitivity, pain when eating or drinking something hot, cold, or sweet, and possibly even pits or small holes in teeth.

A few ways you can prevent cavities:

  1. Brush your teeth after each meal, but wait 30 minutes to brush if you eat something sugary.
  2. Rinse daily with a fluoride mouthwash. Ask your dentist what type and brand they recommend.
  3. Ask your dentist to apply a dental sealant to the grooves and crannies of teeth to prevent bacteria from collecting.
  4. Opt for a healthy diet consisting of lots of vegetables and fruits. Processed or sugary foods, such as cookies and potato chips, can get stuck in your teeth and promote tooth decay.
  5. Be sure to visit your dentist every 6 months to catch cavities and other dental problems early on.

If your tooth is too far gone and a cavity has already formed, your dentist will recommend different treatments based on the state of your cavity. If caught early on, a small hole or pit in the tooth can be treated with fluoride paste to help strengthen your teeth and prevent decay. However, if the cavity is fully formed, the best method is to remove the decayed material and replace the fragments or areas of your tooth with a filling, usually a porcelain or composite resin material.

If the decay is more extensive, your dentist may recommend a dental crown to strengthen the tooth’s structure. As with a regular filling, your dentist will remove the decayed part of the tooth, then place a crown over the remainder of the tooth. Once the decay has reached the tooth’s nerve and damaged it, a root canal may be necessary. During this treatment, the pulp and decayed center of the tooth must be extracted. Then, the tooth is sealed, filled, and placed with a crown.

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