Cavities, also called dental caries, are a sign of tooth decay. As tooth decay progresses, small holes begin to develop in the teeth. If left untreated, they can get bigger and cause more problems.
You can get a cavity on any part of your tooth. The three main types of cavities are:
Some people, including older adults, may be more prone to developing cavities along their gum line (in some cases, “gum line”). These are often thought of as smooth-surfaced cavities as long as they don’t fall below the gumline.
Learn more about cavities around the gumline.
Location matters when it comes to cavities and the recommended treatment.
A cavity that is close to but above the gumline is a cavity with a smooth surface. These are cavities that form on the smooth sides of your teeth, often between your teeth.
A cavity that forms just below the gumline is a root cavity. A root cavity cannot be treated with frequent tooth brushing or even regular tooth filling. More extensive surgery may be required to prevent the cavity from growing.
The biggest culprit is plaque. Plaque is a sticky layer that forms on your teeth when the bacteria in your mouth feed on the sugar from food or drink that you recently consumed.
These bacteria break this sugar down into acid, which can wear away on the hard enamel of your teeth. If plaque is not removed, it can harden into a yellowish layer called tartar along your teeth and gums as well.
Part of this is because as you age, your gums tend to wear down, exposing your roots. Because your roots are covered in cement, which is softer than the hard enamel that covers the rest of your teeth, they’re more prone to plaque and tooth decay.
Since voids start out small, you may not even realize you have one first. However, there are a few signs to look out for:
- Pain in the tooth. Toothache is one of the most common signs of a cavity developing.
- Temperature sensitivity. Your teeth can become sensitive to heat and cold.
- Sensitivity to sweets. If your tooth hurts a little after eating something sweet, it may be due to damage to the enamel and cement.
- Stains on the surface of your tooth. Although these look like white spots early on, they can darken in color.
- Pits or holes. If you notice a small hole in your tooth, be sure to ask your dentist to examine it.
The following factors can add to your risk of developing a gum cavity:
In general, evidence shows that cavities are incredibly common in adults, with more than 90 percent of adults having at least one cavity. And it seems that the older you get, the higher your risk.
Research has shown that root cavities are much more common in older adults. This is partly due to gum recession, which is more common as we age.
In fact, 70 percent of adults aged 65 and over have some form of periodontal disease, including gums that are separating from their teeth.
Bad oral hygiene habits
If you don’t brush and floss your teeth carefully, you can leave food debris and drinks behind, and the bacteria in your mouth feed on these debris, creating plaque.
This plaque can build up and erode the enamel on your teeth, which can lead to cavities. Plaque also tends to build up along your gums and can harden into tartar, which is difficult to remove and can harm the health of your teeth.
Removing this plaque will reduce the build-up of tartar and the chance of gum cavities developing.
Also known as xerostomia, dry mouth occurs when you don’t make enough saliva. Saliva provides protection against tooth decay and gum disease, so a lack of saliva can increase your risk of cavity cavities.
If a cavity develops on the chewing surface of your teeth, filling will often correct the problem. However, a gum cavity is a little more complicated.
If the tooth decay has gone past the gumline and reached the root of the tooth, you may need further treatment.
If tooth decay reaches the pulp or the center of the tooth, your dentist may need to perform a root canal. To do this, the pulp including all paths must be cleaned, the entire area disinfected and sealed.
Some people may also need a crown to support a fragile tooth. However, experts note that this may depend on the location of the affected tooth. The teeth in the back of your mouth that are used for chewing are more likely to need a crown after a root canal.
Treatment of a gum cavity depends on the location of the cavity. If it’s over the gumline and isn’t too bulky, your dentist can likely treat it like any other surface category: with a filling.
Usually this means piercing the tooth enamel and then removing the tooth decay. Then the hole is filled with a composite resin material or other substance and then cured to fix it.
However, a cavity that is actually in or under the gumline tends to require more extensive maintenance. Your dentist may need to perform a root canal to clear the tooth decay and keep it from spreading.
Inverting a cavity is only possible in the very early stages of decay. If your dentist notices a cavity called demineralization at the first stage, it may be possible to stop the damage and restore the lost minerals in your tooth.
However, this assumes that the cavity is above the gumline and not below the gumline or into the root.
Now that you know what is causing these voids, there are steps you can take to prevent these voids from occurring. The most important things you can do are:
- Brush teeth. Do this twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste recommended by the American Dental Association (ADA) for tooth decay prevention. Make sure to brush the gum line and use a fluoridated mouthwash.
- Floss every day. This will help remove any debris that may be trapped, which is a food source for the bacteria living in your mouth. The ADA strongly recommends that you make sure that you work the floss up to the gumline so that you remove anything that lurks there and can lead to cavities.
- Visit your dentist. Visiting a dentist twice a year to clean and examine yourself can help you and your dentist stay up to date with what’s going on in your mouth. This way, you are less likely to develop a cavity that will go undetected and untreated for a long time. Your dentist can also perform fluoride treatments.
- Prescription fluoride. Your dentist may recommend the use of fluoride at home and may write you a prescription that some can use on their own.
You can also take other measures to reduce the likelihood of cavities forming in your teeth, such as: B. Drink more water and consume less sugar.
If you think you are at an increased risk of developing a cavity along your gumline, it is a good idea to speak to a dentist about your situation.
In the meantime, you can work on keeping your teeth and gums as healthy as possible, taking careful care of your teeth brushing and flossing.