Being “cavity-free” is often an accolade touted by children upon receiving a favorable dental report card. For children and adults alike, cavities can seem a bit scary and most of what we know about them is simply that we don’t want them. The word often triggers thoughts of rotting teeth and infections, but the truth is, it takes significant neglect for things to get that bad. The purpose of a family or Utah pediatric dentist is to catch the culprit long before things get out of hand. But what exactly is the dentist looking for? What is a dental cavity?
To understand cavities, we must first understand the basic structure of the tooth. There are three main structural components of our teeth, namely, enamel, dentin, and pulp. Enamel is the hardest substance in our bodies and is found on the exterior of our teeth.
Simply put, cavities are permanently damaged areas in the tooth enamel that develop into tiny openings or holes. Cavities are a form of decay and typically form slowly over time. Although, in many cases, symptoms don’t manifest, here are some signs that you or your child may have a cavity:
- Tooth sensitivity
- Pain while eating or drinking
- Visibly discoloration on tooth’s surface
Again, many individuals with cavities don’t experience symptoms and only find out about their cavities during their dental checkup. Cavities do not get better on their own and need to be treated in order to prevent future complications such as severe pain, infection, and even tooth loss.
How Cavities Are Fixed
The majority of cavities that are treated are relatively minor and can be addressed with traditional filling options. This will only be the case, however, if the cavity hasn’t reached the pulp or nerve of the tooth.
Fillings are made from various materials and effectively fill in the areas of decay, making the tooth good as new. Filling options can be discussed with your dentist.
When decay passes through the enamel and dentin layers reaching the pulp and nerve, it is likely a filling won’t entirely remedy the issue. Root canals are sometimes needed in order to remove the diseased pulp and seal the space inside the tooth. After a root canal, crowns are often placed on the tooth for a more natural look.
When a tooth is severely damaged and has considerable decay, it may be necessary to extract the tooth entirely. This is only done when the tooth cannot be otherwise restored and the risk of infection is high.
Tips for Prevention
According to the American Dental Association, 91 percent of Americans over 20 years old have had a cavity. Many of these cavities were had during childhood. The most common causes of cavities revolve around poor oral hygiene practices. Here are some basic tips that will help keep your teeth cavity-free:
- Use fluoride toothpaste
- Brush your teeth at least twice a day
- Rinse with water after eating
- Avoid constant sipping and snacking
- Consider dental sealants
- Limit sugars and soda
- Visit your dentist regularly
The Dentist: A Cavity’s Worst Enemy
While it is always good to have your teeth clean and free of plaque and tarter, the most important part of visiting the dentist is making sure no cavities are forming, and if they are, scheduling proper treatment. If cavities are left un-checked the overall health of your child could be affected. A dental check-up every 6 months is important in order to stay on top of things, preserving bright smiles. As your leading Utah pediatric dentists, we make sure each child receives the best dental care possible and leaves our office happier and more educated than when they arrived. If you have any questions regarding pediatric dentistry, don’t hesitate to reach out. We’re always happy to help.