Cavities can form anywhere on your teeth. You may associate cavities with the nooks and crannies where food often gets trapped, but tooth decay can happen on the smooth surfaces of your teeth as well. The good news is that these cavities are simple to prevent through regular oral care.
Categorizing Dental Cavities
Dental medicine classifies cavities based on two factors: where the cavity is located and the severity of the decay. The American Dental Association identifies five primary locations:
- Approximal surfaces: where a tooth touches another tooth
- Cervical surfaces: the aspects of a tooth that neighbor gum tissue
- Pits and fissures: the biting surfaces of your teeth and premolar and molars in particular
- Smooth surfaces: on the circumference of a tooth or in between the teeth
- Roots: the aspects of the tooth that should be below the gumline
Think of your smooth surfaces as the sides of your teeth: front, back, left, and right. A smooth surface that is healthy is called a sound surface. The initial stage of decay, which often appears as a white spot, is known as an initial caries lesion. In this stage, the enamel remains whole, and the cavity may actually be reversible. An initial caries lesion will progress to a moderate caries lesion and eventually an advanced caries lesion. Moderate lesions are often characterized by tiny holes and the dentin being visible, and in the final stage, a full cavity has formed, and the underlying dentin is fully exposed.
Treating Smooth Surface Cavities
In the initial stage, a cavity is reversible through a process known as remineralization. This is how enamel is strengthened and why fluoride is beneficial to your teeth. Your dentist may recommend an in-office fluoride treatment or even an over-the-counter oral care product. In some cases, your dentist may advise a resin that fills the tiny depressions that currently exist and helps the tooth to rebuild.
If the decay has advanced to the point of a fully realized cavity, the damage can be halted but not reversed. The treatment at this point depends on the severity. Options include:
- Fillings: Moderate cavities can be cleaned of decay and then filled with a dental material.
- Crowns: Structurally weakened teeth require a crown in order to restore function and form.
- Root canal treatments: When decay has reached the pulp, it is necessary to remove it.
- Tooth extractions: If the tooth cannot be saved, it must be extracted and then replaced.
Preventing Smooth Surface Cavities
All cavities are preventable, and most cavities occur due to poor oral hygiene. Smooth surface cavities are generally the easiest of all cavities to prevent. The American Dental Association recommends brushing twice a day with a soft-bristled brush and fluoride toothpaste for two to three minutes at a time. You should floss your teeth and scrape your tongue whenever you brush.
After brushing, be sure to rinse well. In many cases, you can simply rinse vigorously with water to great effect. If you prefer an oral rinse, you should avoid alcohol-based rinses and limit usage to twice a day. In some cases, your dentist may recommend a fluoride oral rinse, and you can discuss other therapeutic rinses with your dentist that can have a wide range of characteristics intended to bolster oral health.
Another important factor to consider is your diet. Avoid sodas and diet sodas and other soft drinks as well as hard candies you suck on and gummy candies you chew. Foods like that make the task of keeping your teeth clean much harder. On the other hand, if you sip water throughout your day and snack on crunchy vegetables, nuts, and other mouth-friendly foods, you make that task much easier.
Avoid Smooth Surface Cavities
Smooth surface cavities are among the easiest tooth decay to avoid, and that begins at home with regular brushing and flossing. It is also very important that you see your dentist twice a year to have your teeth cleaned and your oral health examined. Jeffrey D. Clark, DDS, is a leading dentist in Scottsdale who performs comprehensive dental examinations and works diligently to help his patients achieve and maintain optimal oral health. Schedule your checkup at Scottsdale Dental Excellence today by calling 480 585 1853.