Did you know that over one third of Australians have untreated tooth decay and on average, 29.7 decayed, missing or filled tooth surfaces per person? This alarming number depicts how common cavities are, even though they are largely preventable. If you’re worried about cavities between teeth and the negative impact they can have on your oral health, you’re in the right place. In our comprehensive guide, we’re going to explore this common dental condition, learning its causes, prevention strategies and treatment options. Let’s improve our oral health together.
What are Cavities Between Teeth?
Cavities between teeth are dental caries or tooth decay that form in the spaces between adjacent teeth. These cavities can occur when there is a buildup of plaque and bacteria in these hard-to-reach areas. Here’s how they develop:
Plaque is a sticky film of bacteria that forms on teeth when you eat or drink, especially sugary or starchy foods. If it’s not removed through regular brushing and flossing, plaque can harden into tartar, making it even more difficult to remove.
The bacteria in plaque feed on sugars and produce acids as a byproduct. These acids can erode the enamel, the outer protective layer of the teeth. This acid can erode the protective enamel layer of the teeth, weakening it and creating cavities. Tooth decay happens when this acid continually breaks down the enamel, leading to the formation of holes or cavities in the teeth.
In between teeth, there are natural gaps and contours where plaque and food particles can become trapped. These areas are difficult to clean with a toothbrush alone.
Over time, the acids produced by bacteria can weaken the enamel in these interdental spaces, leading to the formation of cavities. If left untreated, these cavities can progress deeper into the tooth structure and cause pain and more extensive dental problems.
Signs and Symptoms of Cavities
Detecting a cavity in its early stages can be challenging because they are not always immediately visible. Here are some common signs and symptoms that may indicate the presence of a cavity:
Toothache: One of the most common symptoms of a cavity is toothache, especially when you chew or consume hot, cold, or sweet foods and drinks. The pain may be mild initially but can become more severe as the cavity progresses.
Sensitivity: Tooth sensitivity to hot, cold, sweet, or acidic substances can be a sign of a cavity. You may feel a sharp or shooting pain when these substances come into contact with the affected tooth.
Visible Discolouration: In some cases, you may notice visible changes in the affected tooth. This could include white, brown, or black spots or stains on the tooth surface. However, not all cavities are immediately visible to the naked eye, especially in their early stages.
Holes or Pits: As a cavity progresses, it can create small holes or pits in the affected tooth. These may be visible or felt with the tongue.
Bad Breath or Taste: Bacteria in a cavity can produce foul-smelling compounds, leading to bad breath or a persistent bad taste in your mouth.
Pain When Biting or Chewing: Cavities can weaken the tooth structure, causing pain when you bite or chew food.
Swelling or Pus: In more advanced cases where the cavity has reached the tooth pulp, you may experience swelling around the affected area or the presence of pus, which can indicate infection.
Dental Treatments for Cavities
The treatment for cavities depends on the severity of the decay. The most common treatment is a dental filling. It involves the removal of decay and filling it with a tooth-coloured material to protect the tooth.
Here are the steps typically involved in a filling procedure:
Your dentist will first examine your teeth and may use X-rays to determine the extent and location of the cavities. This helps them decide the most appropriate treatment.
If the cavity has reached the dentine, the layer beneath the enamel and is close to or affecting the nerve, your dentist will numb the area using a local anaesthetic. This ensures you don’t feel any pain during the procedure.
Removal of Decay
Using specialised dental tools, the dentist will remove the decayed portion of the tooth. This process leaves a clean and prepared area for the filling material.
After the decay is removed, the dentist will fill the cavity with a suitable dental filling material. Common options include amalgam, composite resin , glass ionomer cement, or gold. The choice of material depends on factors like the location and size of the cavity, your preferences and your dentist’s recommendation.
At Dana Street Dental, we use composite resin or ceramic filling because of its durability and ability to blend seamlessly with your natural teeth. The material sets within minutes, and you’ll be ready to leave with a reinforced tooth before you know it.
Shaping and Polishing
Lastly, your filling will be shaped and polished to ensure a comfortable fit and bite alignment. For more advanced cases where the cavity has reached the pulp, the innermost part of the tooth containing the nerves and blood vessels, or if there is an infection, additional treatments may be necessary. This may be because the area is too large for a filling or a tooth is damaged beyond repair.
Some of these treatments include:
Root Canal Treatment
If the decay has reached the pulp and caused infection or significant damage, a root canal procedure may be performed. This involves removing the infected pulp, cleaning the root canal, and sealing it with a filling material. After a root canal, or in cases where a large portion of the tooth is removed to treat the cavity, a dental crown may be placed over the tooth to protect and strengthen it. It restores appearance and preserves the weakened tooth, protecting it from further damage,
When a tooth is severely damaged by decay and cannot be saved, it may need to be extracted. Leaving it there can affect your oral health, increasing the risk of decay and damaging the remaining healthy tooth.
At Dana Street Dental, we offer a range of teeth replacement options for damaged or missing teeth, such as dental implants and bridges. Depending on your aesthetic and oral requirements, we only recommend treatments tailored to your needs to help you achieve optimal oral health and a stunning smile.
How to Prevent Cavities Between Teeth
Cavities can be prevented with proper and consistent oral hygiene practices to maintain your oral health as well as regular dental checkups to prevent and detect tooth decay.
Here are some preventive strategies to help you protect and maintain your smile:
Brush Your Teeth
Brush your teeth at least twice a day using strong fluoride toothpaste. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush as hard bristles can cause gum and tooth abrasion, brushing for at least two minutes to ensure thorough cleaning.
Flossing or Using Interdental Brushes
Flossing and interdental brushes help remove food particles and plaque from between the teeth and along the gumline, where your toothbrush may not reach effectively. Interdental brushes consist of a handle and a bristle head and are particularly useful for removing plaque, food particles, and debris from inaccessible areas.
Rinse with Fluoride Mouthwash
Using a fluoride mouthwash can strengthen your teeth and provide an extra layer of protection against cavities. Rinse according to the product label instructions.
Limit Sugary and Starchy Foods
Reduce your consumption of sugary and starchy foods and drinks. Bacteria in your mouth feed on sugar and produce acids that can erode your tooth enamel.
Keep Your Body Hydrated
Water helps rinse away food particles and bacteria in your mouth and can prevent a dry mouth, promoting saliva production to protect your teeth from tooth decay and gum disease.
Regular Dental Checkups
Visit your dentist for regular checkups and cleanings. Your dentist can identify cavities at an early stage, providing early treatment to prevent further damage. Dental checkups also include a professional clean to help remove plaque and tartar buildup, thus reducing the incidence of dental decay.
Avoid tobacco products as they can contribute to gum disease and increase the risk of cavities. Limit alcohol consumption, as excessive alcohol can lead to dry mouth, reducing saliva production, which helps protect your teeth.
At Dana Street Dental, our dental checkups are more than just an examination and clean. We take the time to listen to you and understand your concerns, providing personalised advice and recommendations. We aim to educate you on the correct brushing techniques, appropriate products/tools and factor in your lifestyle to make oral hygiene easier, encouraging proactive care for a healthier smile for life.
Consider Fluoride Treatments
If you’re at higher risk for cavities, your dentist may recommend fluoride treatments, which involve applying a concentrated fluoride gel or varnish to your teeth, adding a protective layer to strengthen tooth enamel.
A Healthy Smile Begins with Preventive Care
At Dana Street Dental, we’re dedicated to helping you maintain healthy teeth and gums for a lifetime. With a patient-centric approach focused on preventive care to minimise the need for extensive treatments and a gentle touch, we provide quality dental care tailored to your unique requirements. From dental fillings for cavities to general dental and cosmetic procedures, we’ve got you covered. Book a consultation today.