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Oral cavities aren’t just an inconvenience that you can wish away. They require specialized care and treatments that remove and repair damaged tooth structures and reduce or eliminate pain. In this guide, we’ll offer some preventive tips, as well as information on what to expect when visiting the dentist.
Different Types of Oral Cavities
When a patient doesn’t remove oral plaque with regular flossing, brushing, and rinsing, their teeth are more vulnerable to decay and cavities. With regular care, however, a dentist can find symptoms of gum disease and cavities before they cause serious problems.
Every cavity is different, and only a dentist can tell which type a patient has after examining their teeth with special instruments. The three main cavity types are:
- Root decay : This kind of cavity is quite common among older patients and those with receding gums. As the name implies, a root cavity occurs on a tooth root’s surface.
- Pit and fissure tooth decay : These cavities appear on a back tooth’s chewing surfaces as bacteria multiply and plaque builds up. Though pit and fissure cavities can be prevented with proper oral care, those who brush their teeth inconsistently are more likely to suffer from this condition.
- Smooth surface cavities : These cavities appear on the outer flat surfaces of the teeth when bacteria and plaque build up over time. Of all the different types of cavities, these are the easiest to treat with fluoride and proper oral care.
When a cavity occurs on the chewing surface of a back tooth, it’s called an occlusal cavity. These often occur on parts of the teeth that are difficult to reach with a toothbrush; therefore, the fissures and grooves in those teeth may collect bacteria. When left untreated, these bacteria secrete acids that damage teeth, and cavities are the result.
Treatments for Every Kind of Cavity
Today, there are numerous ways to address the problems created by oral cavities. The treatment your dentist chooses is typically determined by the cavity’s severity and the results of a thorough evaluation. Here, we’ll discuss options for minor and major dental cavities.
Most moderate to severe cavities are treated with fillings. When a patient gets a filling, the dentist drills into the tooth, removes the damaged tissues from the cavity, and finalizes the treatment by filling the hole with materials that restore the tooth’s structural integrity. While most fillings are made of composite resin, some are made from other materials.
Occlusal cavities, or those on the molars, may be filled with durable materials like silver and gold. For cavities in between the teeth, otherwise known as interproximal cavities, some dentists prefer to use composite resins for a more appealing look. Depending on a cavity’s location and severity, your dentist will choose the right option.
For the worst cases of oral decay, when a tooth’s structure is irreversibly damaged, a dentist may recommend a crown as a lasting solution. Sometimes, severely infected teeth require sizable fillings, which may make those teeth more likely to crack and break. To treat this type of damage, a dentist will attempt to salvage the remaining tooth material, repair it, and cover it with a porcelain or alloy crown.
When a cavity’s damage is too severe to be successfully treated with the above methods, your Tucson dentist may recommend root canal treatment. If tooth decay goes through the enamel layer, it typically settles into the dentin at the center of the tooth. Excessive dentin penetration often leads to nerve damage at the root, and only a root canal will resolve the issue.
During root canal treatment, the dentist will take out the damaged nerves and tissues before filling the area with a special sealant. If a significant portion of the tooth is removed during the procedure, the dentist may put a crown over it once the root canal is complete.
Extractions: The Last Resort
Full extraction is another way to treat dental cavities, but it is used only when the above treatment methods aren’t enough to repair the damage caused by a cavity. Extractions are only recommended when the damage to a patient’s tooth increases the risk of an infection that may spread to other parts of the body.
For a decayed tooth that’s easily accessible, your dentist will perform an extraction without anesthesia or incisions. Extractions leave gaps between the teeth, which are often remedied with the insertion of an implant, a bridge, or a partial denture.
To prevent cavities and the damage they cause, a regular oral care routine is essential. In some cases, regular brushing, flossing, and mouth rinsing may reverse tooth decay. With fluoride treatments and the minerals found in saliva, the enamel layer may repair itself. Your dentist can recommend the right toothpaste and tools, along with these easy tips:
- Brush at least twice per day. Spend 30 seconds on each quarter of your mouth, for a total of two minutes. During that time, clean every surface of your teeth.
- Use toothpaste and mouthwash containing fluoride. Recommended by dentists everywhere, fluoride greatly enhances oral health by strengthening the tissues of the teeth. Those who are more likely to develop cavities should use a fluoride-enriched mouthwash and ask a dentist about professional fluoride treatments.
- Floss daily. With twice-daily flossing, you’ll remove the plaque and food particles that brushing often misses.
- Get a checkup every six months. With professional cleanings and exams, patients not only keep their smiles bright, but they get a chance to remove stubborn tartar and plaque.
A thorough evaluation will point out small problems before they turn into big ones, and your dentist can provide advice on choosing the right oral care products.
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