What Cavities AreCavities are small holes created in a tooth that’s been subjected to decay. Healthy teeth are covered with a protective outer layer called enamel. When acid-producing bacteria take hold of a tooth, they gradually wear away at the enamel and leave behind small pits commonly known as cavities.
How Cavities Form
Plaque is a naturally occurring bacteria-ridden film that covers the inside of your mouth. If you don’t brush and floss your teeth, the bacteria will interact with sugars that you consume. As a result of this interaction, an acid is produced that rots away at your teeth. As the cavity grows, decay may penetrate the inner layers of your tooth. If it impacts the tooth root, the consequence is an abscessed tooth. Once decay has reached this inner level, only extraction or a root canal can effectively treat the infection.
How Cavities Are TreatedThe earlier a cavity is identified, the easier it is to treat. Cavities at their earliest stage can be maintained with fluoride treatments and a renewed commitment to regular brushing and flossing. But once the enamel has been worn away, the usual course is to have the decay removed and a filling placed over the resulting hole. Fillings can be made of various materials, such as porcelain, composite resin and silver amalgams. Additionally, if the decay was extensive and harmed the integrity of the tooth, a crown may be required to protect against the possibility of future fracturing.
How to Prevent CavitiesFar better than filling cavities is to prevent them altogether. Every day you should:
- Brush your teeth with fluoride-enhanced toothpaste twice, for at least two minutes each time.
- Floss at least once. Flossing is the only way to remove plaque that clings to the gaps between teeth.