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What Causes Tooth Cavities?

One of the most common questions we get asked at Proud Smiles is whether someone has a cavity. Atlanta, GA family and cosmetic dentist Dr. Brenda Paulen is committed to patient education and helps her patients maintain healthy, beautiful smiles with tooth cavity prevention and treatment. Learn more about what causes cavities and how to prevent them so you can avoid tooth decay and smile for a lifetime.

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What Is A Cavity?

The most common threat to the longevity of your smile is a tooth cavity, because if left untreated, bacteria can penetrate the teeth and cause infection in the teeth, gums, and even throughout your body.

A cavity is simply a spot of decay on the tooth where the enamel has weakened and created an opening. This exposes the sensitive tissues inside the teeth, called the dentin, which often creates sensitivity to hot and cold or pain when chewing. Cavities also open up your teeth to oral bacteria, which can cause an infection, not to mention additional discomfort.

How Do Cavities Form?

Your teeth are composed of nerves and soft tissues surrounded by a tough outer layer called enamel. The bacteria that normally inhabit the mouth feed off of food particles left on the teeth, and they produce acids during digestion that weaken tooth enamel. Once enough of the enamel has eroded from the acid, you have a cavity. Many cavities form in places that are difficult to reach with a toothbrush, such as between teeth and right at the gum line, which is why dentists always talk about how important it is to floss regularly.

How Are Cavities Treated?

A small cavity is usually treated with a filling, where your dentist will remove any decayed tissue and fill the cavity with a strong material to seal the tooth. This material is bonded to the tooth with an ultraviolet light and is designed to match the hue of your tooth. Larger cavities that have reached deep inside the tooth may require a root canal, which removes more tissue and often requires a cap or crown to hold the natural tooth together.

How Do You Prevent Cavities?

Brushing your teeth twice a day and flossing at least once a day are the most important parts of your oral care routine. What you do at home is even more important than what happens at your regular cleanings, because it prevents tartar from hardening to the teeth and accelerating tooth decay.

Another way to prevent cavities is to stay hydrated, as a dry mouth is the ideal growing condition for oral bacteria. Regularly flushing your mouth helps remove plaque and prevent it from building.

Don’t forget about your regular cleanings. Even with diligent oral hygiene, there are still places in the mouth that often build tartar quickly, which requires professional tools to remove. Schedule your dental check-up with Dr. Paulen at Proudsmiles to maintain a beautiful, functional smile by calling us at (404) 418-7734 or requesting an appointment online.