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Cavities: All You Need To Know

July 18, 2023

What Are Cavities?

Cavities, also known as tooth decay, are a common dental problem that many people face. A cavity is a hole or damaged area in a tooth caused by the gradual destruction of the tooth’s outer surface (the enamel).

Over time, if the enamel erodes, bacteria can penetrate deeper into the tooth, reaching the soft layers underneath, such as dentin and the pulp. Once the bacteria invades the dentin, the decay process accelerates and the cavity begins to form. 

Types Of Cavities

There are different types of cavities based on their location within the tooth, here are the 3 main types we treat at Melton Dental:

Pit and fissure cavities

These occur on the chewing surfaces of the teeth. The chewing surfaces have natural grooves, pits, and fissures that can trap food particles and bacteria. If proper oral hygiene is not maintained, these areas can be prone to decay, leading to pit and fissure cavities.

Smooth surface cavities

These cavities develop on the smooth surfaces of the teeth, between the teeth or on the sides of the teeth. If oral hygiene practices (particularly flossing) are neglected, plaque buildup can occur, allowing bacteria to produce acids that lead to decay and the formation of smooth surface cavities.

Root cavities

They typically affect older adults or individuals with receding gums or gum disease. Root cavities occur on the exposed roots of teeth. Since the roots don’t have the same protective enamel covering as the crown, they are more vulnerable to decay. 

Signs Of Cavities

Understanding and catching the signs early may just save you time, money and much discomfort from untreated tooth decay. Here are some signs that may indicate cavities:

  • Tooth sensitivity – 

Increased sensitivity to hot, cold, or sweet foods and beverages can be an early sign of cavities. 

  • Toothache – 

Persistent or intermittent toothaches are a common symptom of cavities. The pain may vary in intensity and may worsen when you bite down or apply pressure on the affected tooth.

  • Visible holes or pits – 

Cavities can cause visible changes on the tooth surface. You might notice holes, pits or dark spots on the affected tooth. These visual changes are signs of worsening tooth decay and an appointment should be scheduled ASAP!

  • Discolouration – 

The affected areas on your teeth may appear brown or black to compared to the surrounding healthy enamel. Discolouration can be an indication that the decay has progressed and the tooth structure has been compromised.

  • Pus or Abscess – 

In advanced stages of decay, an infection may develop, leading to the formation of pus or an abscess. This can cause severe pain, swelling and a pimple-like bump on the gum near the affected tooth.

  • Bad breath – 

Persistent bad breath that does not improve with regular oral hygiene practices may be a sign of cavities. The decay and bacteria in the mouth can contribute to foul-smelling breath.

  • Changes in bite – 

Cavities can weaken the tooth structure causing changes in your bite or discomfort while chewing. If you notice a shift in your bite or experience pain while eating, it may be an indication of cavities.

Causes Of Cavities

Cavities can be caused by various factors. Here are some of the most common causes of cavities we see at Melton Dental:

  • Poor oral hygiene
  • High sugar and carbohydrate intake
  • Frequent snacking 
  • Acidic foods and drinks
  • Dry mouth
  • Weak or thin tooth enamel
  • Gum recession
  • Fewer dental checkups & professional dental cleans 

How To Treat Cavities

Treating cavities involve removing the decayed part of the tooth and restoring the damaged area. The specific type of treatment needed will depend on the severity and location of the cavity. Here are some common approaches to treating cavities:

Dental Fillings

Dental fillings help to restore the tooth’s shape, strength and functionality. How it works is, our experienced dentist will first numb the area around the affected tooth. The decayed portion will then be removed using special dental tools. Once the cavity is clean and free of decay, the space is filled with a dental filling material such as composite resin, amalgam or porcelain to keep your tooth strong and functional.

Dental Crowns

If the cavity has caused significant damage to the tooth structure, a dental crown may be necessary. After the decay is removed, our skilled dentist will reshape the tooth and take impressions to create a custom-made crown. Made of porcelain, metal or a combination of both, it is then placed over the tooth, providing protection and restoring its appearance and function.

Root Canal Therapy

When the decay reaches the inner pulp, it means your infection has reached an advanced stage and can cause severe pain if not treated. In such cases, root canal treatment may be required. Our dentist will remove the infected pulp, clean and disinfect the root canal and then seal it with a rubber-like material called gutta-percha. 

Tooth Extraction

In certain cases where the tooth is severely decayed, fractured or cannot be effectively restored, getting your tooth extracted may be the only available option. After tooth extraction, options for tooth replacement such as dental implants, bridges, or dentures can be discussed with our dentist.

Early detection and treatment of cavities are essential to prevent further damage, pain and potentially losing your tooth! So make sure you attend your regular dental check-ups and cleanings so we can work on detecting cavities in their early stages. Call today to schedule your appointment!