Anyone can get a cavity, so what does a cavity look like? and how can you tell you have a cavity? In this article, you will find all you need to know about cavities, including how to prevent them and when it becomes essential to see a dentist. Simply put, a cavity is a hole in your tooth caused by decay that happens over time, basically due to the buildup of bacteria that forms a sticky substance called plaque.
If you have a cavity that remains untreated, you are likely to experience harsh pains. This is because the decay has penetrated deeply into the dentin layer of your tooth. If still left untreated, it can become infected and cause an abscess.
HOW DO CAVITIES FORM?
Several factors influence the development of a cavity in your tooth, but all boils down to poor oral hygiene. If you enjoy snacking on sugary and starchy foods, you should learn to clean your teeth properly after. The consequence of not doing so could be the development of a cavity in your tooth. This is because the normal bacteria in the mouth will feed on whatever residue of those sugars gets stuck or glued to your teeth’s enamels. Gradually, a plaque –a clear sticky film, is formed.
The plaque covers your teeth and you may feel it on your teeth after a long period of not brushing. Plaques can be easily removed by brushing, but when it continues to accumulate, it hardens into what’s known as Tartar. The tartar protects the bacteria that had caused the formation of the plaque in the first place, and it is more difficult to remove.
When a plaque is formed on the surface of a tooth, it eats away at the minerals in the enamel, hence, demineralizing the tooth, which is the first stage of tooth decay. Demineralization of the enamel weakens the tooth, as it loses all its nutrients, making it more susceptible to bacteria attacks. If at this point nothing has been done to restore minerals to your enamels, the decay continues to eat away through your tooth. A tiny hole opens up in the enamel and gradually progresses to the dentin.
The dentin is connected to some underlying nerves in your mouth, so at this point, your tooth becomes more sensitive, and should the decay be allowed to continue, it will eat away into the pulp layer of your tooth. At this stage, you will experience an increase in pain and tooth sensitivity, as the pulp is the layer that covers all the nerves and blood vessels in your tooth.
HOW TO TELL YOU HAVE A CAVITY
You never want to go to the dentist to discover you have a cavity, and until some symptoms become prominent, you may never know you have a cavity. You most likely don’t even know what a cavity looks like, so spotting it yourself by just looking at the mirror can be difficult. However, here is a list of some symptoms that should have you booking an appointment with a dentist as soon as you experience them:
- Extreme pain
- Sensitivity of affected tooth to cold or hot foods
- Dark spots on the tooth
- Bad breath and unpleasant taste in the mouth
- Swelling of the mouth or jaw
- Hole in the tooth
- Swelling or bleeding gums
- Difficulty in chewing
- Tooth chipping/cracking
- Pus around the teeth or gums when it gets infected.
WHAT DOES A CAVITY LOOK LIKE?
A cavity is a hole in the tooth, so it will look like a hole. Generally, cavities can range in colors from white to brown, then eventually black as the cavity continues to grow. Before a full-blown decay, at the onset you may notice tiny white spots on your tooth, indicating that your tooth is beginning to loose minerals. The white spots can be hardly seen by looking in the mirror, this is why it is important to have a regular dental checkup with your dentist, as they would be able to spot it while examining your teeth.
If nothing is done to stop the progression, then the decay will continue, until finally a small hole is formed. The shape of a cavity is organic and changes as the cavity grow in width and depth. For each dental patient, there is a slight difference in what a cavity looks like.
WHAT DOES A CAVITY BETWEEN TEETH LOOK LIKE?
The cavity between teeth is called interproximal cavity and spotting it or even knowing what it looks like is difficult. You’ll only be able to notice a cavity between teeth when the decay has progressed deeply to break through the tooth enamel to the layer of tissues underneath (dentin). This is another reason to keep up a regular visit to the dentist as it is the best way to spot this type of cavity on time.
WHAT DOES A CAVITY LOOK LIKE ON AN X-RAY
While examining your teeth, your dentist might take an x-ray to determine what tooth is affected and how deeply it has been affected. An x-ray of a cavity will show a darker spot or a shadow on a tooth.
HOW ARE CAVITIES TREATED
There are different ways your dentist could suggest to treat a cavity, depending on the level of severity of your cavity.
Some ways a cavity can be treated include;
Most cavities are treated by filling them. However, first, your dentist will remove all of the decay from the affected tooth, then use any filling material from the wide range of available options. After filling the tooth, the area is cleaned again and sometimes a protective covering is applied to the nerves.
Filling materials are available as:
- Ceramic: This type of filling material is made of porcelain, although expensive, it can resist any form of staining.
- Gold: It is the most expensive type of filling material, it takes a lot of time to place in position and it does not match the natural teeth color, however, it is long-lasting.
- Amalgam: Although this filling material may contain a trace amount of mercury, requires extra space in the tooth, and looks unnatural, it is inexpensive, and yet durable.
- Glass ionomer: Made of acrylic and glass that can be used around the nerves below the gum line.
- Tooth-colored composite: This is regarded as the best filling material as it matches the natural teeth and can be used with chipped or broken teeth. It is expensive also and wears out fast.
2. Fluoride Treatment
If your cavity is still at its early stage, then fluoride treatment might be your dentist’s preferred option, as fluoride can help in the restoration of the enamel, and can even reverse the ongoing decay. Treatment comes in liquid, gel, foam, or vanish forms which are brushed directly onto your teeth.
3. Root Canal
If the decay has progressed down to the pulp layer of your tooth, your dentist will most likely suggest getting a root canal. A root canal involves removing the decayed pulp and filling up the space with a filling material. Some medications will also be prescribed to you to help fight off infection.
Your dentist will take this measure if the decay is at its most severe point, that is it has eaten deep below the pulp. The only option for treating such a cavity is often to entirely remove the tooth to prevent the decay from spreading. The procedure will leave a gap between your teeth, but with a cosmetic procedure involving an implant, that can be fixed.
PREVENTING A CAVITY
Prevention always remains better than cure, and in the case of cavities, the best way to prevent it is to observe proper oral hygiene by doing these few simple things:
- Brush and floss at least twice a day: Using toothpaste with fluoride you can get rid of any debris and bacteria that form plaque on your teeth and gum line. A fluoride toothpaste also helps the enamels remineralize in any case where they are losing their nutrients. Making them stronger to protect your teeth from any form of decay.
On the other hand, flossing properly every day helps pick out tiny food particles that could be hiding between your teeth, so they do not accumulate and cause interproximal cavity.
- Snack on less sugary foods and drinks: Bacteria thrives from the acid in these sugary foods, so eating a lot of them encourages bacteria in your mouth. Research suggests that eating sugar-free foods can reduce bacteria that can lead to cavities.
- Apply dental sealants: Sealants are a thin coat of protection that sticks to the back of the teeth, where plaques are most likely to build up. So they prevent the buildup of plaques and they have a lifespan of several years.
- Visit your dentist regularly: Regular visits to the dentist for cleanings and exams will help prevent cavities and also spot them on time before they become full-blown decay.
A cavity is a type of tooth decay that happens gradually. You may not be able to know what a cavity looks like at its onset as it usually begins with the appearance of white spots on a tooth, but with regular visits to your dentist, you will be able to save yourself the trouble of suffering the extreme pain that follows the development of a cavity.