Dental Caries

Dental caries (cavities) are areas of tooth decay. Cavities are usually caused by a combination of poor dental care; sugar; tobacco, alcohol, and drug abuse; decreased saliva production; and receding gums. If cavities are not treated by a dentist, they grow in size. This can cause toothaches, infection, and loss of the tooth.

Cavities of the outer tooth enamel do not cause symptoms. Dental pain from cold drinks may be the first sign the enamel has broken down and decay has spread toward the root of the tooth. This can cause the tooth to die or become infected. If a cavity is treated before it causes toothache, the tooth can usually be saved. Cavities can be prevented by good oral hygiene. Brushing your teeth in the morning and before bed, and using dental floss once daily helps remove plaque and reduce bacteria.

Candy, soft drinks, and other sources of sugar promote tooth decay by promoting the growth of bacteria in the mouth. Proper diet, fluoride, dental cleaning, and fillings are important in preventing the loss of teeth from decay. Antibiotics, root canal treatment, or dental extraction may be needed if the decay is severe. Take any pain medication or antibiotics as directed by your caregiver. It is important that you follow up with a dentist for definitive care.

SEEK MEDICAL CARE IF:

  • You or your child has an oral temperature above 102° F (38.9° C).

  • There is difficulty opening the mouth.

  • There is difficulty swallowing or handling secretions.

  • There is difficulty breathing.

  • There is chest pain.

  • There are worsening or concerning symptoms.