Can Cavities Cause Tooth Loss?
Cavities, also called caries, permanently damage the teeth. Cavities are essentially small holes or openings that develop as a result of tooth decay. Tooth decay occurs when the outer layer of the tooth, the enamel, becomes damaged. If left untreated, tooth decay can progress, reaching the inner structures of the teeth, eventually resulting in a large cavity, severe toothache, or tooth loss. For those who suffer from tooth loss, dental implants provide a permanent solution to replacing missing teeth and restoring oral health. For more information about cavities and tooth loss, schedule a consultation with Queens, NY dentists Clifford Degel and Carmen Every-Degel.
What Causes Cavities?
Cavities are caused by a number of factors. Frequent snacking, especially on sugary, acidic, or starchy foods, can increase the risk of cavities, as can drinking sugary or acidic drinks. These types of foods and drinks are particularly harmful because the bacteria found in plaque feed on these substances. As the bacteria feed, they release acids that gradually damage the tooth structure.
Cavities are also caused when plaque is left on the teeth for prolonged periods of time. Plaque consists of sticky food remnants and dental bacteria; when left on the teeth, it can cause dental cavities. This is also why brushing and flossing are essential: they remove harmful plaque, bacteria, and food debris from the teeth.
How Can Cavities Lead to Tooth Loss?
If left untreated, a small dental cavity can lead to major oral health problems, including tooth loss. When a dental cavity is ignored, bacterial acids continue to erode the damaged tooth, leading to larger and deeper cavities. In some cases, dental cavities may be so large that the only way to restore oral health is to extract the damaged tooth.
More commonly, cavities lead to tooth loss as a result of root canal infections. As decay penetrates through the enamel and dentin, it will eventually reach the root canal, where the nerves, blood vessels, and pulp tissue that nourish the teeth and regulate dental sensitivity reside. When a cavity progresses to the tissues within the root canal, bacteria may infect these tissues, resulting in a painful root canal infection.
Root canal infections are extremely painful and dangerous to oral health. Because these infections directly impact the tissues responsible for keeping the teeth healthy and nourished, when root canal infections go untreated, they can cause the blood vessels, nerves, and pulp tissue within a tooth to die. Eventually, the tooth will fall out or require extraction.
Treating Cavities and Tooth Loss
It's important to treat cavities as early as possible to protect oral health and prevent serious dental damage. Some signs of dental cavities include increased dental sensitivity, toothache, pain in a specific area when eating sweet foods, or a visible opening in the tooth. Fortunately, there are many treatments that can repair damaged teeth. These treatments include:
- Cosmetically appealing tooth-colored fillings
- Dental crowns to restore the strength of teeth weakened by large fillings
- Root canal therapy to treat root canal infections
- Dental implants to permanently replace missing teeth
Find Out Which Treatment Is Right for You
If you suspect you may have a cavity, it's important to seek treatment as soon as possible. To find out which treatments are right for you, we encourage you to schedule a consultation with Drs. Degel and Every-Degel.