How do dentists find a cavity?
Cavities are caused by the bacteria that live in every human being's mouth. These bacteria thrive on the sugars that you place in your mouth, they then form dental plaque, and these plaques contain the bacteria's acidic byproducts that eat away the surfaces of your teeth. If these softened areas get too large they can break down further or "cavitate". These will continue to grow unless the dental decay is removed and the tooth restored by a dentist. We like to find a cavity when it is small and repair it before there is major breakdown.
Cavities can form on various surfaces of your teeth. Some people are more prone to certain types of cavities than others:
- The most common type of cavity forms in the deep grooves and fissures found on the chewing surfaces of your teeth. Bacteria can easily hide out in these areas and some people struggle to brush them away. This deep grooves are the main reason most dentist's recommend sealants at a young age. These cavities are usually found with a dentist's explorer. Your tooth is made of the hardest substance in the human body so it should feel solid when tested by your dentist. If a soft or sticky spot is found by the explorer this is the most common indication that there is a cavity.
- The next most common type of cavity is found between your teeth. These are cavities prevented by flossing. They usually form when bacteria collect just below the spot where neighboring teeth contact each other. These types of cavities are usually found with our routine bitewing x-rays.
- Another common area to get a cavity is along the gum line. Dental plaque is easily formed along the gum line. On the lingual side (the side of your tooth facing your tongue), plaque formation is less common because it is routinely washed away by your tongue. It is much more common on the buccal side (the side of your tooth facing your lips and cheeks) and special effort must be made to brush it away. These cavities are detected visually or again by running the dental explorer across the tooth surfaces looking for breakdown.
- Another very common type of decay is called recurrent decay. This is decay found along the margins of an existing restoration (a filling, crown, etc.) The margin is where a dental restoration meets your tooth. Microscopic bacteria hide on any ledge, crevice, or crack that they can find and this junction between your restoration and your tooth is an ideal space no matter how well the restoration is done. For this reason it is very important to be mindful of the dental work you have in your mouth and take extra care to maintain it.
If you're concerned that you might have a cavity and would like it evaluated, please give us a call at Buxton Family Dental!