What is a Cavity? While we’ve all been taught to fear and avoid cavities, it’s not necessarily true that all of us understand what they really are. Read on for a simple, yet comprehensive guide to cavities, constructed by the experts at Pediatric Dentistry and Orthodontic Specialists of Michigan. 1. What is it? Cavities (sometimes referred to as, “caries”) are, at their simplest, holes in the enamel of your teeth. Over time, these holes can grow larger and deeper, which can become a painful and dangerous problem. 2. Why do we get them? Simply put, because of something called plaque. Plaque is a thick substance comprised mostly of bacteria and food debris that has not been cleaned from the teeth. When plaque makes a home on your teeth, cavity-causing bacteria called Streptococcus Mutans, which is a normal inhabitant of all of our mouths, is allowed to replicate into larger numbers. This bacterium has the purpose of using certain sugars from our diet to produce a strong acid that eats away at the tooth’s surface. 3. So the “sugar rots your teeth” thing is a hoax? Actually, no! While sugar isn’t the direct cause of tooth decay, it serves as a major energy source for the bad bacteria. The by product of the bacteria consuming the sugar is the harmful acid that works to break down the enamel. Sugar gives bacteria the energy to form thicker, more active plaque, which can be much harder to rinse or brush off of your teeth. The more plaque stuck to your teeth, the more likely you are to get a cavity. 4. What happens if I get one? You might notice a pain in the affected tooth, especially after drinking any hot, cold, or sweet foods/drinks. If the cavity is fully developed, you may even notice a visible hole in your tooth. 5. How do I fix it? There are a number of ways to treat a cavity. For most basic cavities, fillings are required to remove the damaged tooth material and fill the hole in the tooth. You can also get a dental crown (a cap over the tooth) if the cavity covers many surface of the teeth. In more serious cases where the bacteria have accessed the inside “nerve” of the tooth, a root canal is required. Because baby teeth are much smaller and lower quality enamel when compared to adult teeth, this process can occur quickly in children’s teeth. Regular dental visits allow our pediatric dentists to screen for developing problems before they become severe. 6. Why would we fix baby teeth that are going to fall out? Sometimes we don’t if the tooth is not supposed to “last” that much longer. However, baby teeth serve an important role in chewing and function for our children so if they are not meant to fall out for years, we preserve them. Additionally, they serve as “place holders” for the adult teeth that replace them. If a baby tooth is lost too early, neighboring teeth tend to move into the new space from the forces of chewing and eruption. This can create many difficulty orthodontic problems down the road so the best course of action is usually to repair and save baby teeth that are supposed to be around for many years to come.
If you have any questions regarding cavities or any other dental concerns, please feel free to reach out to any member of the team at Pediatric Dental and Orthodontic Specialists of Michigan. About Pediatric Dentistry and Orthodontic Specialists of Michigan, the offices of Drs. Delaney, Plunkett, Ralstrom, Makowski, Thanasas, Ker, and Associates Pediatric Dentistry and Orthodontic Specialists of Michigan have specialized in pediatric dentistry and orthodontics since 1968. Our family-friendly office gives patients and families a more comfortable and consistent experience with dentistry from the very beginning. The pediatric dentists treat children from newborn to 18 years of age while our orthodontists provide care for both children and adults, including being an Invisalign preferred provider. The ability to treat all special needs patients reaches beyond our facility, which has treatment rooms available for children who require additional privacy. Valued hospital affiliations allow dental services to be performed at DMC Children's Hospital when needed. Pediatric Dentistry and Orthodontic Specialists of Michigan 39400 Garfield Rd., Suite 200 Clinton Township, MI 48038 586-286-0700 www.mychildsteeth.com