Cavities Don’t Happen Overnight

By Catherine M. Fascilla, D.D.S.

One of the most important reasons for seeing your dentist regularly is to prevent cavities. Many times a tooth will not become sensitive, and you will be unaware of its existence until the decay has penetrated the enamel and reached an advanced stage. However, if a cavity is diagnosed early, your dentist can prevent it from becoming a bigger problem than it already is.

The expression “If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it” does not work very well when it comes to dental care. Bacteria in your mouth break down the sugar and starch in your diet and adheres to the teeth in the form of plaque, a sticky, whitish substance. If plaque bacteria is not disrupted daily through proper brushing and flossing, it hardens into tartar, or calculus, which must be removed by your dentist or hygienist. The bacteria in plaque create acids which eat away at the enamel of your teeth, and a cavity forms as the enamel is weakened.

Once the enamel is penetrated, the inner surface of the tooth called the dentin begins to decay quickly. If the decay is not removed, the nerve tissues and roots of the teeth can become infected. Clearly it is best not to leave “well enough alone” since tooth decay is progressive, and what is a minor cavity today may become a major dental problem if treatment is postponed. Remember, cavities don’t happen overnight; prevention is up to you.