With the holiday season approaching, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to eat sugary treats. How could you pass on your candy bars during Halloween, your grandmother’s famous pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving, or your candy cane collection during Christmas?

But you know all this sugary food might lead to cavities if you’re not careful. Watch for warning signs to identify whether you’ve developed a cavity. Then, see a dentist to restore your dental health.

How to Know if You Have a Cavity

Pay attention to your dental health during the holiday season. If you notice any of these signs, see a dentist.

  • Toothache: Sometimes, cavities cause tooth pain. This pain might increase when you chew.
  • Tooth Sensitivity: Cavity-related pain might increase if you eat or drink something hot, cold, or sugary. However, tooth sensitivity doesn’t necessarily indicate a cavity-see a dentist to make sure.
  • Spots or Holes in Your Teeth: As the acid wears down your tooth, it leaves brown spots on the tooth’s surface. As the cavity progresses, parts of your tooth might break off, creating holes.
  • Bad Breath: When food particles get stuck inside the holes caused by cavities, they can cause bad breath. Like tooth sensitivity, bad breath doesn’t always mean you have a cavity; it could point to a different dental condition as well.
However, even if you don’t experience any of these signs, you might still have a cavity.  If you haven’t already seen your dentist twice this year for a checkup, try to visit him or her before the end of the year. It can be tricky to fit in a dentist visit during the holiday season, but the sooner your dentist sees an issue, the easier your dentist can take care of it.

How a Cavity Forms

If you suspect you have a cavity, you might wonder how you got it, especially if you brush and floss regularly. Here’s how a cavity forms:

  1. You eat something that contains sugar and don’t thoroughly clean it off your teeth in time.
  2. The natural bacteria in your mouth feed on the sugar and produce acid.
  3. Bacteria, food, and saliva combine in your mouth and form plaque.
  4. The plaque attaches to your teeth and begins to harden and turn into tartar.
  5. The acids in the plaque remove your tooth’s minerals and enamel. This causes holes in your teeth called cavities.
  6. If your cavity isn’t treated, the acid breaks down your inner tooth material and causes pain.
As you can see, eating sugary foods makes cavities more likely. But starchy foods, like your uncle’s famous mashed potatoes, are also culprits because they make plaque stickier.

Sugary drinks are popular during the holidays (including egg nog, hot chocolate, and soda) and greatly increase your risk for cavities. When you drink these beverages, you constantly wash your teeth in sugar, allowing bacteria to produce more acid.

How a Dentist Treats Your Cavity

First, your dentist will check to see whether you have a cavity. He or she uses an instrument to check for teeth softened by decay. He or she also uses an x-ray to see if a cavity formed between your teeth.

Sometimes, your dentist can reverse small cavities by applying fluoride treatments. But in most cases, your dentist needs to remove the decayed area and fill it with a protective material like gold, silver alloy, composite resin, or porcelain. Most fillings are barely noticeable, so you don’t have to worry about how you’ll look at your work Christmas party.

If your tooth is badly decayed, your dentist may place a crown, or artificial tooth cap, over the damaged area.

If the cavity has reached the root or pulp of your tooth, your dentist needs to perform a root canal. Your dentist removes the infected pulp and fills it with a protective material, then adds a crown or filling to your tooth.

 

You can have a piece of Grandma’s pie this holiday season. Just make sure you don’t overdo your consumption of sugar and starch. If you suspect you have a cavity, see a dentist right away.