When it comes to oral care, you think you’re doing everything right. You brush your teeth at least twice a day, floss at least once and use mouthwash. Yet despite this routine, your next dental checkup reveals multiple cavities. What could be going on?
Age, a pre-existing health condition, hormonal issues or a change in lifestyle habits could cause you to develop more than the average number of cavities.
How Cavities Occur
Tooth decay causes cavities, with bacteria from plaque and tartar eating away at the enamel and into the tooth’s pulp. They can occur directly on the surface or in between teeth if you have neglected flossing.
Increased sugar consumption provides more food for the bacteria in your mouth, which can influence the development of cavities. Certain health conditions that affect saliva production may also increase tooth decay.
Cavities develop through the following process:
- Plaque, a sticky film of bacteria, begins to accumulate in your mouth. Poor dental care, eating sugary or starchy foods and decreased saliva production can increase the amount on your teeth.
- If not cleaned off routinely, plaque hardens into tartar, which is difficult to remove through at-home brushing and typically requires a professional cleaning.
- Plaque and tartar start to eat away at your tooth’s enamel, creating small holes on the surface. This allows bacteria to pass through to the dentin and pulp. Once decay reaches the tooth’s root, pain and sensitivity may be more prominent.
- As the pulp and nerves become irritated or inflamed, pain spreads and you may notice an abscess forming near the tooth’s root.
While older adults and children are more susceptible to cavities, this condition can affect people of all ages. Common symptoms include:
- Increased sensitivity to hot or cold foods and drinks
- Visible changes in tooth structure, including holes or staining
- Pain when you chew or bite down
Causes of Sudden Cavities
Cavities that develop quickly and unexpectedly may be the result of:
- Sudden Dietary Changes: You might have changed your diet in some way, including drinking more soda, adding more sugar to your coffee, eating more starchy or acidic foods, or consuming more sweets.
- You’re More Stressed Stress: Stress can affect the whole body, including your immune system’s defense mechanism. It may also cause people to eat absent-mindedly or consume more sugar and carbs.
- A New Exercise Routine: Individuals who sweat more or breathe through their mouth while working out may experience dry mouth, which can contribute to cavities over time.
- You Were Recently Sick: After using cough drops for weeks, this degree of sugar exposure can lead to cavities.
- Brushing Technique or Tools: You might be brushing harder or using a firmer-bristled brush. This force can cause enamel and gum tissue to wear away and become more vulnerable to plaque.
- Gum Recession: Receding gums expose the tooth’s root, an area with less enamel that’s more susceptible to decay.
- Chemotherapy: This cancer treatment can cause some patients to experience dry mouth. Without the cleaning and neutralizing effects of saliva, cavities start to develop during chemotherapy.
- Age: Older adults have higher risks for gum recession and enamel erosion or may be taking a medication that affects saliva production. This can result in more cavities.
- Heartburn: Acid reflux or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) can cause stomach acid to flow upward, including back to the mouth. Repeat exposure can break down enamel and make teeth more susceptible to plaque.
- Older Restorations: If you’ve been negligent with dental care, cavities can form around restorations, particularly fillings and crowns. This causes the tooth to experience damage, prevents the restoration from fitting properly and results in bacteria progressing beneath the metal, porcelain or resin. In some cases, poor fit can cause the restoration to rub against the tooth and further damage the enamel.
Concerned about your risk for cavities? To schedule an appointment, contact our Shelton office today.