Most of us have had at least one. Some of us have quite a few. So what makes cavities so persistent, keeping more children out of school than any other disease? Usually, the answer is simple: not enough brushing your teeth, flossing and visiting the dentist. Snacking on sweets and slurping sodas doesn't help either. But rather than feel guilty, get informed.
Q: What's the difference between tooth decay and tooth cavity?
A: Good question! Most people think tooth decay and tooth cavity are the same thing. But they're not. Tooth decay refers to a gradual process during which bacteria in the mouth produce acids that destroy the surfaces of teeth. Over time, tooth decay can erode enamel to the point that a hole, or cavity, forms.
Q: How do I know if I have cavities?
A: Cavities are one of the first things your dentist looks for during a regular dental exam. X-rays allow your dentist to diagnose whether you have dental cavities and how extensive they are. Sometimes a tooth cavity is visible to the naked eye; if you see black holes in your teeth, those could be signs. Another cavity red flag is a toothache or sensitivity to hot or cold food and drinks.
Q: How do dentists treat dental cavities?
A: Treatment depends on the size of the cavity and the degree of damage. Although many dental cavities are treated with fillings, onlays may be necessary to treat large cavities affecting the cusps of teeth, while cavities affecting the areas in between the cusps may be treated with inlays. In some cases, dental crowns are used to protect a tooth from further tooth cavity damage. Dental sealants are often applied to children's teeth as a preventative measure against cavities.
Still have questions about cavities or other dental problems? Your dentist will be happy to answer them during your next checkup.