Cavities Symptoms and Causes
Tooth decay is the disease known as caries or cavities – a highly preventable disease caused by bacteria with many contributing factors. Cavities most commonly occur in children and young adults but can affect any person.
Bacteria are normally present in the mouth. The bacteria converts all foods, especially sugar and starch, into acids. Bacteria, acid, food debris and saliva combine in the mouth to form a sticky substance called plaque that sticks to the teeth. It is most prominent on the back molars, just above the gum line on all teeth, and at the edge of fillings.
The acids in plaque dissolve the enamel surface of the tooth and create holes in the tooth (cavities). Cavities are usually painless until they grow very large and affect nerves or cause a tooth to fracture. If left untreated, a tooth abscess can develop which can lead to the loss of the tooth.
There may be no symptoms. If symptoms occur, they may include:
- Tooth pain, particularly after sweet, hot or cold foods and drinks
- Visible holes or pits in the teeth
Causes of cavities include:
- A diet high in sweets, carbohydrates and sugars
- Living in communities with limited or no fluoridated water supplies
- Poor oral hygiene
- Reduced salivary flow
- Being a child
- Being an older adult