4 signs of dental caries bacteria (and how to avoid them)
What are the signs of dental caries bacteria, and how can you (and your child) avoid them? Here are the apparent symptoms and their preventative measures.
Despite modern advances in dentistry and the wide availability of at-home oral care products, tooth decay is still a problem. The oral disease is the number one reason why 19,000 Canadian children each year require day surgery, where they must receive extractions, root canals, and fillings to repair their teeth.
Dental caries bacteria can wreak havoc on your smile, causing cavities, bad breath, and pain if left untreated. When cavities are small, they often don't have any noticeable symptoms and they can form unseen in between teeth, which is why visiting your dentist regularly for check-ups is so important.
Here are four signs you have cavities along with some tips on preventing them.
1. You Have Dark Holes in Your Teeth
Cavities form when bacteria in your mouth feed off the sugars and starches left behind on teeth after you eat. If you don't brush and floss your teeth promptly after a meal or snack, these sugars and starches can turn into plaque, a sticky substance that binds to teeth.
So how can plaque hurt our teeth? It contains acids that are strong enough to wear away the minerals in the tooth's enamel or the hard outer layer. The acid creates tiny holes in the enamel that allow the bacteria to travel further into the tooth.
If left untreated, the acid and bacteria can reach the dentin which is the next layer of a tooth and softer than enamel. At this point, you'll see a dark hole in your tooth where the bacteria has reached the dentin, but cavities are sometimes visible to the naked eye when they're still in the enamel.
A cavity may not always be visible by looking into your mouth using a mirror. Cavities can develop in between teeth, at the gum line, and in other hidden areas. Your dentist thoroughly examines all surfaces of your teeth when checking for decay.
2. You Have a Dark Area on a Tooth
Cavities in their early stages often appear as a darkened area of a tooth.
Sometimes a dark area on a tooth is not a cavity, but staining. An exam by your dentist will confirm whether you have decay or not.
3. You Have Tooth Sensitivity
A tooth that is painful when you eat or drink something hot or cold or when you bite down on it may have a cavity. When tooth decay reaches the dentin, tiny channels or tubes in the tooth communicate that to the pulp—where the tooth's nerves and blood supply resides—to indicate that there's a problem. This pain and sensitivity may come and go.
If you have any kind of tooth sensitivity, you should see a dentist right away so that any cavity present can be removed and filled before it reaches the pulp and causes a toothache.
4. You Have Consistent Tooth Pain
While not all tooth pain is caused by a cavity, tooth decay is a leading reason for the throbbing, often agonizing pain associated with a toothache. When untreated decay spreads to the pulp, it swells. With no place to go inside a tooth, it creates a painful infection and sometimes an abscess.
If the tooth can be saved, your dentist or an endodontist will perform a root canal. This is a common dental procedure that removes the decay and infected pulp from the tooth along with the canals, or inner chambers, of the roots.
Although the name itself makes many people nervous, the truth is root canals are often no more uncomfortable than receiving a filling. Your dentist will administer local anesthetic to ensure you're comfortable during the procedure and if available, can give you sedation dentistry to help you relax.
You should see a dentist as soon as possible if you're experiencing any kind of tooth pain. If left untreated, the bacteria from an infected tooth can travel to other parts of the body and cause serious illness.
How to Prevent Dental Caries Bacteria
While it's impossible to eliminate bacteria in your mouth, the good news is cavities can be easily prevented or at least kept to a minimum with a combination of at-home oral care and professional dental care. Follow these tips to keep your teeth strong and healthy:
- Brush them at least twice a day using a fluoride toothpaste and soft-bristled toothbrush, preferably after meals. Brush for two minutes at a time and be sure to reach every tooth surface and the molars in the back of your mouth.
- Floss them at least once a day to remove plaque and food particles from in between teeth.
- Avoid soda and other sugary beverages and drink water whenever possible. If you must have a sweet drink, use a straw to help prevent the liquid from coming into contact with your teeth.
- Go easy on eating sticky or sweet foods such as candy, baked goods, crackers, chips, and dried fruit. Clean your teeth after eating these foods or rinse your mouth with water until you can brush.
- Eat a piece of hard cheese such as cheddar or parmesan or chew sugarless gum after a meal to help neutralize the acids that can lead to tooth decay.
- Visit your dentist every six months for a cleaning and exam. Cavities caught in their early stages by regular check-ups are often small and only require a filling. Seeing your dentist twice a year will help prevent dental problems from turning into larger and more painful ones.
Above all, stay consistent with your oral care routine and be sure not to skimp on brushing and caring for your teeth.
Schedule Your Next Dental Exam With Us
We can help you prevent dental caries bacteria from becoming a problem. Schedule a consultation for a cleaning and exam with us here at Twilight Dental Group. We look forward to helping you keep your smile bright and healthy!