In Part 1 of Everything You Need to Know About Cavities, we explained the different levels of severity of cavities, as well as the classification system dentists use to determine where the cavity is located. But how do dentists discover these cavities in the first place? What happens when a cavity is discovered? And possibly most importantly, what do you do to prevent getting a cavity in the first place? We will answer all of these questions in Part 2.
How do dentists identify cavities?
There are two main ways dentists identify cavities. The first way is through a physical examination. In some cases, your dentist will be able to identify tooth decay simply by the tooth’s appearance. Discoloration, enamel destruction, and holes in the tooth are all obvious signs of a cavity. Your dentist will also use various tools in order to detect any soft spots or sensitive areas, both signs of tooth decay.
In addition to a physical examination, your dentist can identify cavities through dental x-rays. Many types of cavities cannot be seen by the human eye. Dental x-rays reveal pictures of the teeth, bones, and soft tissues around the teeth and reveal if any tooth decay has occurred. X-rays are also helpful for dentists to determine the level of severity of cavities.
What happens if you have a cavity?
Once your dentist has found a cavity, you may be wondering what happens next. There are several different options to fix a cavity and it depends on the level of severity. If the tooth decay is just beginning to form and still mild, your dentist may simply give you some tips on dental hygiene best practices. Believe it or not, if your tooth is only just beginning to show signs of decay, thorough brushing and flossing can eventually reverse the decay and get your mouth healthy once again. Another option for a mild cavity is receiving a fluoride treatment from your dentist. Fluoride treatments, which contain more fluoride than is found in your typical toothpastes and mouthwashes, can help strengthen and restore your tooth’s enamel.
If the cavity is more severe and the decay has gone past the enamel, your dentist will probably recommend a filling, which is the most common solution to cavities. Getting a filling is a quick and easy procedure that will involve your dentist drilling out the decay and then filling the hole. Don’t worry, your dentist will numb your mouth first!
Cavities left untreated only become more serious over time because the decay continues to bore deeper and deeper into your tooth. Once the decay has reached the pulp of the tooth, it is possible you will need a root canal, or worse—lose the tooth completely. This is why it’s so important to visit your dentist at the first sign of a toothache; the sooner you can identify a cavity, the better.
How do you prevent cavities?
The good news is that cavities are preventable! Here are the three main things you can do to prevent getting cavities.
- Brush your teeth. And don’t just brush your teeth, brush your teeth the right way! The American Dental Association recommends brushing at least twice a day for two minutes each time. Brushing harder does not mean you are cleaning your teeth more thoroughly, in fact, brushing too hard can cause damage to your gums. Instead, using a soft-bristled toothbrush, place your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle with your gums and lightly move it back and forth in short, gentle strokes.
- Floss your teeth. This often-neglected dental hygiene habit is incredibly important because it gets rid of germs and bacteria that cannot be reached by simply brushing your teeth. Make sure to floss your teeth once a day to prevent unwanted plaque that can quickly cause tooth decay.
- Visit your dentist at least twice a year. Not only is it important to visit your dentist twice a year to receive a routine teeth cleaning, but your dentist will also be able to easily identify any problems or even potential problems in your mouth. Remember, mild tooth decay can be reversed, so if you visit your dentist regularly you may be able to avoid future problems.
If you’re looking for a dentist to go to for a routine cleaning and checkup, or if you’re having any problems with your teeth, we would love to help you at Cornerstone Family Dentistry, so please make an appointment with us today!