Cavities are sneaky. We never seem to notice them until they’ve moved in comfortably and it’s time to visit the dentist. So, how long does it take cavities to form? In today’s article we will discuss how long it takes cavities to form and delve a little into some preventive maintenance for keeping your mouth healthy and those pearly whites their whitest. Let’s discuss cavities!
This didn’t happen overnight, you know..
Cavities are a cumulative process that occurs when sugars and plaque are left alone to play together for too long undisturbed. By brushing and flossing we are able to keep them at bay for a time but sometimes there is a temptation to skip brushing ‘just this one time’ and if that one time becomes many then cavities can start to become a problem. Typically this process takes a long time but as it is cumulative; as your teeth are slowly eaten away the act of brushing simply isn’t going to remove the damage. Thankfully, aside from brushing, you also have another defensive line called remineralization.
What is remineralization?
Did you know that your teeth have a limited regeneration capacity? It’s true! Minerals collected from things that you drink, from your saliva, mouthwashes, and various foods can pool within a cavity and be absorbed where they go to work at reinforcing your tooth. This process is called remineralization. This helps to retard tooth decay quite a bit more than you know but by itself it is not strong enough to completely prevent cavities. By helping it along with regular brushing and flossing you can mount a proper defense if you are thorough, though, which is why your dentist always pesters you to do it.
Depending on size and location of the cavity your dentist might opt for a number of methods of treatment. If it’s just a small cavity, though, most likely you will just be getting a filling. There are a variety of filling types, most likely you will get one of the following:
- Amalgam – Amalgam fillings are the least expensive and are made of a mix of mercury, zinc, silver, copper, and tin. These are the least expensive filling type and they last about 10 years or longer.
- Composite resin –Also known as a ‘white filling’, composite resin is composed of glass particles mixed with plastics colored to approximate the look of your tooth. The dentist places the material into your tooth where it is then subjected to a special light which causes it to harden into place. These cost a little more than amalgams but they only last about 5 years.
- Ceramics – Typically made of porcelain, these filling look great and can last for 7 years or more barring any hard-food incidents. Porcelain fillings are the most commonly chosen and cost almost as much as gold but it is worth it for the natural look.
- Gold – The longest lasting of the bunch, gold fillings can last 15 years or longer. If you don’t like the look of them you should still consider them for back teeth which are out of view if you want a filling that will stand the test of time. These are generally the most expensive.
- Glass ionomer – While only lasting 5 years, glass ionomer are a great choice of filling for children. Composed of acrylic and a compound called fluoroaluminumsilicate, these fillings actually ‘leak’ fluoride, strengthening the teeth around them. Costwise they are in the same neighborhood as composite resin so these are definitely worth consideration.
What can I do to prevent cavities from forming in the first place?
First and foremost, proper brushing and flossing is a must. Make sure that you are holding your toothbrush at a proper 45 degree angle while brushing briskly in small circles. Brush at least 2 times a day (but 3 if you can.) Some folks even carry a toothbrush with them to brush after every meal, which seems excessive, but these tend to be the people who have all of their teeth when they are 70 so it’s hard to argue with them. Next, you should floss at least once a day. Proper flossing is easy, if a bit time-consuming. Take out a generous length of floss and loop it on the index finger on each hand. Next, make a ‘u’ shape that you fit on either side of a tooth as you gently pull to dislodge food particles. Not too hard, of course, as you want to be gentle on your gums. Change the floss as needed and you are good! Some other things that you can do in order to keep your smile healthy and bright are as follows:
- Regular checkups – Your dentist is a professional and is going to see any trouble coming from a mile away, but only if you make sure to visit them every few months. While you are there, get a thorough cleaning. Your dentist can clean your teeth much more ably than even the best toothbrush and combining this expertise with your efforts at home will lead to a lifetime-lasting smile.
- Fluoride mouthwash – Fluoride mouthwash strengthens your teeth and when you don’t have time to brush properly a quick rinse is a good compromise to help to clean your mouth in the meantime until you can do it properly. Mind you, don’t simply rinse all the time, just regularly during your daily regimen and occasionally on those times when you need a brush but can’t.
Today we have discussed how long it takes for a cavity to form as well as what you can do to help keep those cavities at bay. Brush regularly and floss, use mouthwash when you need a quick clean but can’t take the time, and visit your dentist regularly. Your smile can last a lifetime if you maintain it so get started now, you’ll be glad that you did!