Learn more about cavities.
As you grow up and learn more about your teeth, you also find out about these pesky troublemakers called cavities. You’ve probably heard that cavities aren’t a good thing, but you might not know what they are exactly. You might also be curious about how your dentist can help your tooth if it has a cavity or how you can keep your teeth healthy in order to prevent cavities in the first place.
Let’s get to know cavities better so we can understand how to stop them.
What are cavities?
Cavities are a common name given to spots of tooth decay found on and in between teeth. Your dentist might also call cavities ”dental caries,” but this means the same thing. People call these spots of tooth decay cavities because they usually look like small holes.
Sometimes cavities are really obvious because they are big or have a dark color, but sometimes they can be almost invisible. Your dentist knows exactly what to look for when checking your smile for cavities. Special tools and taking X-ray pictures of your teeth can help them see exactly what’s going on.
How do cavities happen?
Cavities don’t start as holes. They actually begin with “Sugar Bugs,” a funny name kids’ dentists use for patches of sticky plaque on teeth. Don’t worry – plaque isn’t actually a type of bug! Plaque is bacteria that decides to stick onto our teeth. Eating a lot of sugar or forgetting to brush will make plaque grow.
Plaque bacteria have a big sweet tooth! When you eat sugary foods or drinks, this bacteria also eats the same things. As bad bacteria eat sugar, they also produce an acid that starts to wear away your tooth’s enamel. This process is what causes cavities to form.
What do cavities do to teeth?
Teeth look shiny and white, and they feel pretty hard when we touch them. We can’t see it, but teeth are actually made of different layers. The outside is enamel, which is what you see as the surface of your teeth. Tooth enamel is the strongest substance in our bodies! It protects the inside layers of our teeth, like dentin and pulp. Dentin and pulp have important jobs to keep our teeth healthy and strong.
When cavities develop they first start wearing away the enamel layer, making it soft and eventually causing it to crumble away. Tooth enamel doesn’t have any feeling in it, so new cavities don’t make teeth hurt. In fact, you won’t even know you have a cavity forming at this stage unless you visit your dentist.
After the tooth decay bacteria make it past your enamel, they can really cause problems. The dentin layer of your tooth is also pretty tough, but it can’t fight against bacteria. When a cavity is touching the dentin layer your tooth might not hurt, but you’ll notice it feels a little funny. For example, when you eat really cold ice cream your tooth might feel itchy and sensitive. This is your body telling you that your tooth isn’t feeling well.
When a cavity keeps growing it will eventually reach the pulp layer of your tooth. This layer is very delicate because it’s where the nerves in your tooth live. When bacteria touch the pulp, you’ll have a toothache because your body is saying, “Hey! We really need to see a dentist right away!”
What will my dentist do about my cavities?
Cavities and bad bacteria are like comic book villains lurking around in a city, but your dentist is the superhero that comes in to save the day. Even the worst cavity doesn’t stand a chance against a dentist!
If Dr. Jeff finds a cavity, he’ll be able to make your tooth feel better right away. He’ll make sure your mouth is numb so you won’t feel anything, and you’ll also get comfy in his exam chair. You’ll even get to wear some cool sunglasses to protect your eyes from the bright lights. When you’re ready and feeling relaxed he’ll start taking care of your tooth.
He’ll remove all of the bad bacteria and any little bits of weakened tooth enamel. For most cavities, all you’ll need is a tooth filling to patch up the hole that the decay left. Big cavities might need to be covered with a dental crown instead to make your tooth strong again.
After your tooth is fixed, Dr. Jeff will also talk to you about keeping your teeth healthy to stop more cavities. He’ll show you how to brush and floss your teeth properly, and you’ll find out which foods and drinks keep your teeth strong.
See Dr. Jeff twice a year to keep those cavities away!
It’s important to see Dr. Jeff twice a year, even if your teeth feel fine. Remember, cavities are really sneaky and only a dentist can spot them before they give you a toothache.
Your parent can schedule your checkups with Dr. Jeff by calling our Plano, TX office.