Have you ever been to the dentist and heard those four dreaded words? You have a cavity. Cavities, just a fancy way of saying tooth decay, are extremely common and come in many different forms. Understanding the level of severity of your cavity, where your cavity is located, and how to prevent future cavities, will be helpful to you as you take care of your teeth. So today we’re drawing back the curtain of dentistry and giving you a peek at all the things we know about cavities and ways you can prevent them.
Cavities form when plaque builds up on your teeth and wears away enamel, which is your tooth’s outer protective layer. Without enamel, bacteria slowly travels deeper into your tooth, moving on to the part of your tooth called dentin which protects the center of your tooth. Eventually, as the decay continues, plaque will enter the inner tooth, called the pulp. This is where the nerves and blood vessels live, and this is when a cavity becomes extremely swollen and painful.
Because cavities form over time, dentists have a system they use to determine the severity of the cavity, meaning how deep the decay has gone.
Incipient: This is the beginning stage of tooth decay when cavities have gone less than halfway through the tooth’s enamel. The good news about these kinds of cavities is that it often means it can be easily fixed without drilling or filling.
Moderate: The next stage of a cavity is moderate, where the decay goes more than halfway through the enamel but hasn’t yet reached the dentin.
Advanced: You guessed it, this cavity is getting more serious and an advanced cavity means decay has moved to the dentin in your tooth. Advanced cavities haven’t yet reached the pulp chamber, but they are well on their way.
Severe: Having a severe cavity means the decay has gotten through the enamel and dentin and is headed to the pulp where the nerves and blood vessels are.
In addition to various levels of severity, cavities show up in different areas of the tooth, so dentists also classify the different types of cavities.
Class I: This type of cavity occurs on the surface of the tooth and can be easily identified by your dentist.
Class II: This decay is found between the molars and premolars.
Class III: These cavities are found between the front teeth but does not include the biting edges.
Class IV: These cavities are found between the front teeth and does include the biting edges of the teeth.
Class V: This is tooth decay that is found on the front or back of teeth near the gumline.
Knowing more about the different types of cavities can help you feel more prepared when going to the dentist. In Part 2 we will discuss what to do when you have a cavity as well as ways to prevent cavities. In the meantime, if you think you may have tooth decay or are experiencing any problems in your mouth, we would love to help you at Cornerstone Family Dentistry, so please make an appointment with us today!