What Are Cavities?

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Here’s a little known fact: parents can pass tooth decay bacteria on to their children by kissing them or sharing eating utensils. Not just parents, but siblings sharing food, straws, or toothbrushes, can spread bacteria. And harmful bacteria in the mouth, particularly streptococcus mutans is the main cause of tooth decay. This is why your daily oral hygiene routine is so important. Not cleaning your teeth properly, snacking constantly, and drinking sweetened drinks throughout the day all result in cavity causing decay.

There are three types of cavities:

Smooth Surface Cavities: these are found on the outside smooth sides of a tooth. They are the most preventable type of cavity, and the most easily reversible. They grow the slowest, beginning as a white spot where bacteria dissolve the calcium enamel. They develop in adult teeth between 20-30 years.

Pit and Fissure Cavities: also known as coronal cavities, these develop in the narrow grooves on the chewing surface of the tooth. They start in the teen years, progressing quickly, and are harder to clean because of their location. To protect these back teeth from getting cavities, dental sealants can help.

Root Cavities: these develop on the root surface commonly found in older adults with receding gums, exposing parts of the root without the protection of tooth enamel. Dry mouth (limited production of saliva, which neutralizes bacterial acids), poor cleaning of the teeth and a diet high in sugar all contribute to this kind of cavity.

As bacteria in your mouth grow, they react with sugar and starches in your food producing acids which wear down your tooth. Cavities can go undetected for some time. In fact, you may not notice you have a cavity until it reaches the inside of the tooth, the pulp, where the nerves are located. While fluoride can help tooth enamel heal, once the cavity spreads into the tooth it will need a filling to drill out the decay and fill the space left behind. Cavities also have a tendency to develop around teeth that have crowns or existing fillings, areas prone to plaque.

To keep cavities at bay, brush with a soft-bristled toothbrush twice a day and don’t forget to floss. See your dentist for cleanings and checkups, to have (hardened plaque) removed using tools specially designed to scrape it away. If you don’t have access to fluoridated water, consider using a fluoride toothpaste.

At Dr. Cory Williams dental office, we are here to help you smile! To schedule your next dental cleaning, please give us a call at 910-763-1072.