According to the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 91 percent of Americans aged 20-64 had dental caries (cavities) from 2011 to 2012. By the time they hit 65, 96 percent of Americans had tooth decay, according to the study. One reason tooth decay is so common is because some people may have limited access to dental care. However, it’s also because people don’t think there’s a problem in their mouth until they feel pain. This means they may not even see a dentist until problems get severe.
To help you better understand, your dentist in Lincoln Park explains why cavities often don’t hurt, even when you have them.
What are Dental Cavities? How are They Caused?
Dental cavities are defined as holes or structural damage in teeth. It’s one of the most common conditions you can have, second to the common cold, according to the National Institutes of Health. While cavities are more common in children due to their higher vulnerability, they can occur in anyone.
Cavities are caused by bad oral bacteria in your mouth. When you consume foods, particularly sugar and starch, bacteria convert it into acid. After you eat, that food debris as well as saliva, acid, and bacteria bind together to form plaque. When plaque is not promptly removed, it can harden and turn into tartar. If plaque remains on teeth for too long, tooth decay begins to form, and cavities can start to appear.
Why Don’t Cavities Hurt at First?
In its early stages, tooth decay only attacks tooth enamel, which contains no nerves. That means you won’t feel cavities forming initially and you’ll need to maintain a strict oral regimen to remove plaque. However, if you’re looking for cavities, you might see visible holes in your teeth as well as black, brown, or white stains on the surface of your teeth.
When it comes to pain or discomfort, you won’t feel any until decay reaches the softer tissues inside the tooth where the dentin and nerves are. You’ll now if you have cavities if you feel sensitivity after eating sweets, hot or cold foods, or pain while chewing. This pain may be anywhere from mild to sharp depending on the seriousness of the cavity, so schedule a visit with your dentist in Lincoln Park to confirm it.
How Do I Prevent Cavities?
The best ways to prevent future cavities from forming include:
- Brushing your teeth twice a day with a fluoridated toothpaste
- Flossing once a day, ideally before bed to prevent plaque from sticking to your teeth and bacteria from multiplying while you sleep
- Avoiding sugary or starchy foods that bacteria love to eat and convert to acid
- Seeing your dentist in Lincoln Park every 6 months for exams and professional cleanings
Keep in mind you also won’t notice signs of gum disease much until it’s serious. Much of the symptoms of periodontitis go unnoticed by the untrained eye, so seeing your dentist regularly will ensure you can treat issues as early as possible. Schedule an appointment with your dentist today to see if your oral regimen is holding up.
About the Author
Dr. Samir K. Rana attended Rutgers University, The State University of New Jersey, and the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey to earn his dental degree and undergraduate education. One of his biggest passions in life is helping families and growing with them as they visit him for regular dental visits. To learn more about his preventive treatments and practice, contact him at (973) 633-5666 or visit his website.