Cavities or dental caries are a relatively common development in the life cycle of human teeth. These holes or eroded areas in the surface of the teeth occur when plaque and tartar buildup on the teeth triggers acidic processes that cause the tooth’s enamel layer to decay. Without treatment, the decay may progress to the dentine layer of the tooth and eventually to the pulp chamber, exposing the sensitive nerves and blood vessels inside the teeth. Without the protective outer layer, food and bacteria can enter the teeth making it vulnerable to infection. Also, by depleting the tooth structure, cavities undermine tooth strength, making the affected teeth prone to fractures.
Dental cavities can form on any part of a tooth depending on where the acid attacks. Dental cavities are classified as follows.
1) Root cavities
Cavities that form below the gum line, on the surface of the teeth roots, are known as root cavities. This is the least common type of dental decay, occurring mostly in people with receding gums, for example, elderly people.
2) Pit and fissure cavities
Pit and fissure cavities occur on the chewing surfaces of the teeth. These cavities form on the grooves and valleys (the pits and fissures) that characterize the top surfaces of the molars (the back teeth). Pit and fissure cavities are the most common type of dental decay. They are also usually the most severe and painful.
3) Smooth surface cavities
Cavities that form between the teeth, or on the flat inner or outer surface of the teeth, are called smooth surface cavities. In the beginning, these cavities appear as white, chalky spots on the flat surfaces of the teeth, rather than as holes in the teeth; because of this, many people do not realize they have a cavity. Smooth surface cavities are considered the least threatening type of cavity since they grow more slowly than other types of cavities and can be reversed with fluoride therapy.
Regardless of the type, cavities require immediate treatment since they can have potentially serious, even life-threatening consequences when left untreated. A dental filling, which involves closing up the hole in the tooth, or root canal therapy to remove damaged pulp, can curb the escalating harmful effects of dental cavities.
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