Have you ever wondered how a dentist can tell that you have a cavity? The best way is to look at an x-ray, which clearly shows how dental decay is impacting the enamel of the tooth. The dentist also uses an instrument called an explorer to tap along the teeth; if a spot feels soft instead of solid, that’s a good indication of tooth decay.
And sometimes, the dental decay is so severe, you can see it with the naked eye. It may begin as a white spot, then darken into a brown-colored stain. As the decay worsens, it creates a hole in the tooth.
Look at this cavity picture of an 8-year-old boy’s tooth. This baby tooth had to be pulled because the dental decay went through the enamel and reached the dentin, causing an infection that inflamed the sensitive nerve tissue of the tooth and created a painful, pus-filled abscess at the root of the tooth. Since the permanent tooth was already beginning to emerge, the dentist elected to pull the tooth instead of trying to restore it with root canal therapy.
What Causes a Cavity
Millions of bacteria live in your mouth. Most of these are beneficial; they produce acids that help break down food. Other types of bacteria produce acids that break down the enamel of your teeth. These bacteria attach to your teeth to form a sticky layer called plaque. If the plaque is not removed by brushing and flossing, the acid from the bacteria starts to wear away the enamel.
While proper brushing removes cavity-causing plaque from the tops and sides of your teeth, it does not remove the plaque from between your teeth. Only flossing can remove the particles of food and bacteria caught between teeth. That’s why it’s so important to floss at least once a day.
The pictures of the 8-year-old’s tooth shows deep cavities on both sides of the tooth. These occurred because the child did not floss. The top of the tooth, which the child brushed twice a day, did not have decay because the toothbrush removed the plaque from that surface.
It’s important for parents to floss between their children’s teeth until the children are old enough to have the dexterity to do it themselves. That’s usually around age 9.
Fluoride is another important tool in the fight against tooth decay. Ask your dentist if you or your children should use a fluoride mouthwash at home.
And last but not least, make sure you’re keeping up with your professional teeth cleanings. Only a dental professional can remove the plaque and tartar build-up from all those hard-to-reach places in your mouth.
Call 1-800-32-SMILE to find a dentist near you and make your appointment today!