People in general don’t get as many cavities as they once did, thanks to fluoride toothpaste and mouth rinses. Good oral hygiene practices can reduce the likelihood of cavities, but cavities can still happen to anyone, at any age; even baby teeth can get cavities. Cavities are caused by decay and can get worse if not treated early. There are basically three different types of cavities. They all start in the enamel, and will progress into the deeper layers of the tooth if not stopped with treatment.
The simplest form of cavity is smooth surface decay. This is caused by plaque buildup. Plaque can build up on the teeth if you do not brush and floss regularly. With smooth surface decay, the plaque buildup has caused decay on the outside flat surface of the teeth. This is a slow-growing type of cavity and the easiest to reverse.
Pit and fissure decay affects the back teeth on the chewing surfaces. This type of decay can become serious rather quickly if it is not treated.
Root decay affects the surface of the tooth roots. It is common in older adults who have receding gums. This is the most difficult type of cavity to treat.
Not all tooth decay results in a cavity that needs a filling. If the decay is stopped from reaching the dentin, the second layer of the tooth beneath the enamel, the enamel can repair itself. Fluoride is necessary for this to happen, including prescription-strength fluoride treatment from a dentist. Once the decay reaches the dentin, then a filling is necessary. Cavities that are not treated can eventually reach the inside of the tooth, which may result in the need for root canal therapy to save the tooth.
When a cavity begins to develop, you may experience pain. You should see a dentist as soon as possible to get treatment when it is still relatively simple. Continue brushing and flossing regularly, even if you are experiencing pain. Keeping bacteria and plaque away is the best thing you can do to prevent cavities from getting worse. Cavities can be prevented by brushing twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, flossing at least once a day, and seeing the dentist twice a year for checkups. Dental sealants for children or adults can also protect the back teeth from bacteria that can lead to tooth decay and cavities.