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How Do Cavities Form?

By Dr. Silvers on June 27, 2015


An illustration of a toothCavities are perhaps the most common and well known of all the dental problems that can affect patients. However, many patients don’t understand exactly how cavities form. In this blog post, the team at Silvers Family Dental Care in Harrisburg explains the process by which tooth decay occurs, as well as the widespread damage cavities can cause if left untreated. If you develop a cavity, Dr. Warren D. Silvers, Sr., Dr. Warren Silvers, III, and Dr. Daniel Laux can perform restorative dentistry treatment to prevent further damage and strengthen the tooth.

The Build-up of Plaque and Tartar

If you fail to brush your teeth at least two times each day, do not floss on a daily basis, or miss routine dental cleanings, plaque and tartar can build up on the teeth. Plaque is the sticky film that clings to teeth after eating and drinking. Plaque is easy to remove with regular brushing and flossing. If plaque is left on the teeth for 24 hours, it begins to harden into a substance called tartar, or calculus. Tartar is much more difficult to remove. Typically, tartar can be removed with special dental tools or a dental pick during dental cleanings.

The Accumulation of Bacteria

Dental bacteria feed off of the sugars left behind in plaque and tartar. As the amount of plaque and tartar in the mouth increases, bacteria are able to thrive and flourish. As the bacteria feed on the plaque and tartar, they emit acids that slowly erode the tooth enamel. Over the course of several months, the bacteria destroy healthy tooth enamel, creating small holes, or cavities, in the teeth.

The Progression of Cavities

Initially, cavities start out small, only affecting the enamel of the tooth. These cavities can be treated with a dental filling. However, if the cavity is allowed to progress, it will eventually affect the inner dentin layer of the tooth. This type of cavity requires greater restoration of the tooth, such as the placement of a large filling, inlay, onlay, or dental crown. If the patient does not seek treatment at this point and the cavity continues to grow, the bacteria can reach the root canals of the teeth, causing a root canal infection. A root canal infection requires more extensive cleaning of the tooth and root canals, and the tooth must be topped with a dental crown after treatment to provide the tooth with additional strength and support.

Preventing Cavities

Preventing cavities is as simple as brushing twice a day, flossing daily, and seeing the dentist every six months for an exam and cleaning. Unfortunately, even if you follow this advice, a cavity may still develop. However, if you visit the dentist every six months, cavities can be caught in their earliest stages, when they can still be treated with a simple dental filling. Following treatment for a cavity, it is important to maintain a good oral hygiene routine to prevent future tooth decay.

To schedule your next dental appointment, contact Silvers Family Dental Care today.

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