It is not uncommon to see a dramatic increase in dental cavities during college years. A diet high in sugar coupled with changes in personal hygiene are often to blame for the increase in tooth decay.
Tooth decay and dental cavities are caused by bacteria that are normally present in and around the teeth. These bacteria feed off the food you put in your mouth and love sugar. Today’s fast-paced college lifestyle is filled with fast food, sugar-packed coffees and sugary soft drinks. Even diet-sodas are very acidic and increase the predisposition toward cavities because bacteria thrive in an acidic environment. Byproducts of the bacteria in your mouth cause a breakdown of the adjacent enamel, starting a “cavity.” Another risk factor for cavities are the changes in personal hygiene that often occur during college years.
Symptoms of cavities and tooth decay vary depending on the location and depth of the cavity. When a cavity is in its early stages, there may not be any symptoms. As tooth decay increases, it may cause tooth sensitivity or a toothache, varying degrees of pain when you bite down or when eating or drinking something sweet, hot or cold, visible holes or pits in your teeth, or generalized discomfort or pain in the mouth or jaw. A dental cavity will not get better on its own. If you’re experiencing one or more cavity symptoms, it’s time to see a dentist. At McCarl Dental Group we offer our new dental patients a discount of more than two hundred dollars for their initial dental cleaning , dental exam and necessary x-rays.
“Pit and fissure” cavities are the most common type of cavities. Back teeth or molars have natural grooves, fissures and “pits” on their chewing surface. Pronounced pits, grooves, or fissures retain plaque. Toothbrush bristles cannot reach inside to clean these deep pits and fissures further allowing plaque and tartar to accumulate. During college years, in young adults who do not floss their teeth regularly, we see an increase in interproximal tooth decay causing cavities in-between the teeth. Because of their location, most of the time interproximal cavities can only be seen with an x-ray.
Once a dental cavity is detected, the dentist removes bacteria and decay and fills the cavity to restore strength to the tooth. In deep cavities, the nerve of the tooth may be affected by the bacteria, requiring additional cleaning of the infected nerve called a “root canal”. Luckily, this occurs only in the deepest of cavities. Usually there are warning signs, such as a sensitivity to extreme temperatures or to sweet foods.
Preventing Dental Cavities
The first step in preventing cavities is to maintain good oral hygiene to minimize bacterial colonization. It is important to brush twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and floss daily. The use of a fluoride rinse also helps by strengthening tooth enamel. You can also help prevent cavities by eating well-balanced, nutritious meals and limiting snacking. Maintaining your regularly scheduled dental visits for teeth cleaning and fluoride treatment by a dental hygienist not only helps prevent tooth decay, but the dental exam improves the likelihood of early detection of cavities and treatment with a small rather than large filling.
At McCarl Dental Group we recommend college students have dental exams with teeth cleaning by a professional hygienist every six months. We also recommend that young adults use a prescription strength flouride toothpaste. McCarl dentists recommend Colgate PreviDent 5000 Plus prescription-strength fluoride toothpaste.