How to tell if you have a cavity

Prevention usually is the best medicine. But sometimes, even with regular dental checkups, a cavity, also known as tooth decay, can develop.

According to the American Dental Association, foods with sugar and starch often lead to bacteria and acid growth. Those “acid attacks,” which last about 20 minutes, weaken tooth enamel, and consistent exposure causes the enamel to break down, developing a cavity.

In addition to eating healthy foods, brushing your teeth at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and flossing between teeth daily to reduce the risk of developing cavities is recommended. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports many children now receive clear, dental sealants on their permanent molars that help prevent bacteria from settling into the crevices. These sealants last up to 10 years and can be reapplied.

Though cavities are associated with children, the risk of tooth decay also continues into adulthood. Many adults experience gum disease, which causes the gums to recede. If the gums recede, it can cause exposure of your teeth’s roots, which are covered in a softer tissue than enamel. This can lead to cavities in that area, according to the ADA. In addition, many adults also experience decay around the edges of their fillings.

Though teeth sometimes become sensitive to hot and cold, the nerves inside the teeth often become smaller and less sensitive with age, according to the ADA. That can make identifying and treating problems like the development of cavities more challenging.

According to the ADA, a cavity usually is detected by a dentist who is trained to spot problem issues like sensitivity or soft spots during an examination with the use of special tools. That’s why it is important to undergo regular checks. Having the cavity repaired is crucial to maintain good oral health. Early treatment can save your tooth.

Depending on the nature of the decay, treatment may be as simple as drilling out the decay and filling the tooth, or it can be as complicated as needing a root canal and crown. At the first sign of tooth pain, contact your Los Angeles dentist for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.

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