No, tooth decay is not the same as a cavity. However, tooth decay can cause cavities.
Tooth decay, or also referred to as dental caries, start as plaque, the sticky film that builds up on your teeth. The bacteria found in plaque produces acid that, if left unchecked, can destroy the surface of your teeth. The acid can eventually cause your tooth to decay, which can also lead to it creating a hole in your enamel and this is how you get a cavity.
Fortunately, decay and its effects are both preventable and reversible. Of course, that only is true if it is caught early enough, or if you practice good oral hygiene at home. The former requires the help of a dental professional, as only they can help stop the decay from progressing further and allow your teeth enough time to repair itself.
Tooth decay is often treated or prevented via any one of the following methods:
- Fluoride gel or varnish may be applied to the teeth to help boost remineralization and help the affected teeth repair itself.
- Powerful antiseptic gel or varnish may also be applied to reduce the levels of cavity-causing bacteria in your mouth, which can help slow down the demineralization process.
- Liquid composite sealants can also help by creating a physical barrier between your teeth and the bacteria.
Unfortunately, once tooth decay has caused a cavity to form, the emphasis of treatment changes from prevention to restoration. This is because cavities are irreversible and the tooth simply just cannot repair itself anymore. The only option is for the dentist to repair the tooth by cleaning out the affected area and filling the hole.
Prevention Is Better Than Cure
While dental technology certainly has come a long way over the years and dentists are now better equipped than before to handle tooth decay and cavities, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t just allow yourself to have any one of the two.
Cavities, for one, are irreversible. Even though it can be treated via fillings, crowns, and root canals, having cavities puts you at risk of having a tooth extracted, which only creates even more problems for you to deal with.
As such, it’s important that you start taking better care of your teeth and gums by making sure that you do the following:
- Brush your teeth properly. Do it gently, do not be overly aggressive and switch to a soft-bristled toothbrush.
- Brush at least twice a day, floss at least once, rinse after every time you brush and/or floss your teeth. Repeat.
- Avoid going for many hours without brushing your teeth. If you’re going to go more than half a day without brushing your teeth, keep yourself hydrated and chew sugarless gum. Doing both helps stimulate saliva production in your mouth, which is your body’s natural means of cleansing itself of bacteria and plaque.
- Visit your dentist every 4-6 months, not when you’re just feeling pain in your mouth and/or teeth. Doing so helps make sure that your teeth are properly and thoroughly cleaned often, as well as monitored carefully. Also, since you visit the dentist often, any possible dental problems are caught and treated early on, preventing any possible irreversible damage to your teeth.
Follow these tips and your teeth are sure to be well-protected from tooth decay and cavities.
If you feel that you may be suffering from a cavity or tooth decay, contact Dr. Ted Haines, DDS in Snohomish, WA at 360-568-8577 or visit www.tedhainesdds.com for additional information.
Dr. Ted Haines proudly accepts patients from Monroe, Lake Stevens, Everett, Mill Creek, Woodinville, and surrounding areas.