Preventing and treating tooth decay requires regular dental care

When a tooth is decayed or damaged, it can form a cavity (also known as “caries”), often seen as tiny holes in the hard surfaces (enamel) of the teeth. Cavities are caused by buildup of plague, which is a combination of food debris, bacteria, saliva, and acids produced by bacteria in the mouth. You may have a genetic tendency to get cavities, but most commonly it is caused by eating sugary foods and drinks, and not cleaning the teeth well enough.

People of any age from babies to older adults can get cavities. Some older people may be more susceptible to cavities because the dental devices or cavity fillings they had when they were younger have worn down or loosened, making it easier for plaque to form in difficult to reach areas. You may also be more likely to get cavities if you have gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD) because the acid reflux wears down the tooth enamel. People with eating disorders can also be more prone to get cavities due to stomach acid from vomiting.

Symptoms and problems associated with cavities

Aside from the visible signs of cavities, you may experience symptoms such as toothache, infection, tooth loss, or sensitivity to hot or cold food or beverages. Left untreated, cavities can lead to more severe conditions such as periodontal (gum) disease, tooth loss, or life-threatening infection.

The best way to prevent cavities and associated problems is with routine dental care, such as brushing and flossing, and regular visits to the dentist. Depending on your dentist’s recommendation, you may be advised to visit once or twice per year.

To schedule an appointment with a specialist at Main Line Health, call 1.866.CALL.MLH (1.866.225.5654) or use our secure online appointment request form.