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Tooth decay is a much bigger problem than most people realize. In addition to impacting the appearance of your teeth, untreated decay can also result in a long list of secondary complications including malocclusion, tooth loss, halitosis, and periodontal disease. That is why it is so important to learn as much as possible about how cavities form and what can be done to avoid them. Here is a closer look at where this damage comes from and the steps you can take to preserve your smile.

The Prevalence of Tooth Decay

The ADA claims that around 91 percent of all adults over the age of 20 have some form of tooth decay. It is also the number one chronic disease among children with around 40 percent of all kids developing at least one cavity before kindergarten. According to the World Health Organization, almost 100 percent of the population will develop tooth decay at some point. Even though tooth decay is extremely pervasive, most patients can avoid this oral health issue with the proper care.

A Closer Look at Cavities and Tooth Decay

Also referred to as dental caries, tooth decay takes place when germs and acids permanently damage the outside of a tooth. Your mouth is full of good germs that help you digest your food, but it also contains other substances that will eventually eat away at the enamel that protects your teeth. A cavity occurs when the damage becomes so severe that a larger hole appears in the tooth. Over time, an untreated cavity will eventually damage and infect the pulp inside a tooth. Once the infection has spread, it can create a myriad of problems including bleeding gums and chronic pain.

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Preventative Steps

Most cavities and dental caries can be prevented with good oral hygiene. To eradicate plaque and acids, you must brush and floss your teeth multiple times a day. You also need to be wary of sugary foods and drinks that cling to your teeth and give the bacteria something to feed off of. As a general rule, healthy adults should schedule bi-annual dental appointments as well. During these appointments, your dentist can thoroughly clean your teeth and remove any tartar you have missed. They can also inspect your mouth for any warning signs that you might not be properly caring for your teeth.

Warning Signs

Every case of tooth decay is slightly different, and that is one more reason why you should keep an eye out for any unusual problems with your teeth or gums. In the earliest stages, tooth decay typically causes a dull ache whenever you eat or speak. Over time, that dull ache might evolve into sharp pain as soon as the tooth is touched. You might also notice some form of discoloration on your teeth. The decay might look like a brown spot or yellowish stain.

Treatment Options

Your treatment options will depend on how much damage has already taken place. Minor tooth decay can often be taken care of with a filling or dental bonding. If the decay has spread or multiple teeth are damaged, then your dentist might suggest a more comprehensive treatment such as dental crowns. You can get dental crowns in Cottage Grove, MN, or wherever you happen to live. For the most severe cases, the teeth must be removed and replaced with bridges, dentures, or implants. Even though some of those treatments might sound daunting, they are much better than the alternatives. Ignoring your tooth decay could lead to damaged bones, facial deformations, and blood infections.

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Those who notice any issues with their teeth or gums should immediately contact their dentist for an appointment. Restorative dentistry is more effective than ever, and most of these problems can easily be treated as long as they are caught in their earliest stages.