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WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:
What are dental cavities?
Dental cavities, also called caries, are holes in teeth caused by bacteria. The bacteria mix with carbohydrates from foods and create acids. The acids break down areas of enamel, which covers the outside of a tooth.
What increases my risk for dental cavities?
- Poor tooth care
- Sugary foods and drinks
- Not seeing your dentist every 6 months
- Tightly spaced teeth that are hard to clean and floss
- Dry mouth, caused by certain treatments or medicines
- Not enough fluoride in water or not using dental products with fluoride
What are symptoms of dental cavities?
You may not have any symptoms if cavities have just started to form. When cavities reach deeper parts of your tooth, you may start to feel pain. You may also have any of the following:
- Pain when you chew or eat hot or cold foods
- Chalky white, yellow, or brown tooth
- Gum swelling
How are dental cavities diagnosed?
Your dentist will look at your teeth to check for signs of enamel breakdown and cavities. He or she may also use x-rays to find cavities.
How are dental cavities treated?
- A fluoride treatment may be given during dental visits, or you may use products with fluoride at home. Your dentist will tell you what kind of fluoride you need and how to use it.
- A filling may be placed in your tooth after the decayed portion is removed. The filling may help to protect your tooth from more decay.
- A root canal may be needed if the tooth is infected or the decay is severe.
How can I help prevent dental cavities?
- Brush your teeth at least 2 times a day with fluoride toothpaste.
- Use dental floss at least once a day to clean between your teeth.
- See your dentist every 6 months for dental cleanings and oral exams.
- Rinse your mouth with water or mouthwash after meals and snacks. Chew sugarless gum.
- Eat a variety of healthy foods. Healthy foods include fruits, vegetables, whole-grain breads, low-fat dairy products, beans, lean meats, and fish. Avoid sugary and starchy food and drinks that can stick between your teeth.
When should I seek immediate care?
- You have severe pain in your tooth or jaw.
- You have swelling in your jaw or cheek.
When should I call my dentist?
- You have a fever.
- Your tooth pain gets worse.
- You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.
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