Small Cavity: Causes & Prevention

Small cavity is not as serious as most dental cavities as they can be reversed not prevented from spreading if discovered and treated on time. Small cavity is an early stage of dental cavities, it is a tiny hole in the teeth that forms as a result of wearing away of the teeth enamel. 

There is no age limit to who can get small cavity, it can occur in anyone but it is most common in children as they may not brush their teeth very well and they eat lots of sugary substances than adults. It may be difficult to know you have small cavity until you start to notice some symptoms. The best thing to do when you notice you have small cavity is to see a dentist, if the cavity is treated early, there will be no need for you to have a filling.

WHAT CAUSES SMALL CAVITY?

When you eat sugary and starchy foods and you do not clean your teeth afterwards, the bacteria and acid in your mouth will feed on the leftovers and form a film, sticky coat known as plaque. This plaque covers the teeth and get hardened into a substance called tartar, the tartar can form under or above the gum line. It is difficult to clean off tartar and this acts like a shield for bacteria in the mouth. 

With time, the acid in the plaque wears off the minerals in the teeth enamel. This process is called demineralization, you may even notice your teeth is having little white spots, these spots are an indication that your teeth is losing important minerals. After demineralization, tiny holes and openings occur in the teeth enamel and this is the first stage of cavities (Mayo Clinic, 2022). As the acid continues to spread the damage, the holes affect the dentin layer underneath the enamel and more cavities form. 

SIGNS OF SMALL CAVITY

It may be impossible for you to detect the presence of small cavity in your teeth by yourself, but there are some symptoms or signs that can show you are developing a small cavity.

Some of the signs are:

  1. Tooth Sensitivity: Eating or drinking hot and cold substances can cause you more pain than normal. 
  2. Tooth Pain: You may feel pain and throbbing in your teeth. Eating and drinking can increase the pain and make it worse.
  3. Discolored or Dark Spots on a Tooth: The spots may be white or dark colored, the white spots may be as a result of demineralization. Having spots on the teeth enamel is a sign of teeth issue.
  4. Tiny Hole in the Tooth: This hole may be too small to be seen but you may feel it with your tongue. 
  5. Bad Breath: Bad breath can be caused by the food you are and they go away after brushing but most bad breath that does not go away after brushing may be a sign of small cavity.
  6. Swelling or Bleeding Gums: The gum around or close to the tooth line can become red, swollen and may start bleeding.
Small Cavity
Small Cavity

WHAT DOES A SMALL CAVITY LOOK LIKE

There are many shapes and sizes of cavity, the severity and length of time will determine what the cavity will look like. A small cavity does not look like a hole at the first time, it will show as a small spot on the teeth. The color and shape of the small spot can help you detect or confirm if it is cavity. The colour may first show as white, black or any dark color that is not the same shade as the rest of the teeth.

With time and as the decay on the enamel progresses, the small cavity can turn to black. A small cavity, just like other cavities, has an irregular or asymmetrical shape. There are curves around the cavity rather than straight edges. As the cavity becomes worse, the shape may change.

SMALL CAVITY BETWEEN TEETH: What Does It Look Like?

A cavity that occurs between two teeth is called interproximal cavity, it can be found two molars or other teeth. Interproximal cavity is caused when the teeth enamel is washed off by bacteria and plaque stick to the teeth. It is difficult to detect or notice the presence of a small cavity between the teeth because the other tooth will close and block the signs and also the cavity is small. 

The only time you will notice cavity between teeth is when the decay and damage has broken through the enamel to the layer underneath known as the dentin or with an x-ray. The dentin is delicate and any damage to it can cause sensitivity and pain when eating or drinking. You should see a dentist when you notice any side of your teeth having white spots or any other sign. 

The color of the cavity depends on if the decay is in the enamel or the dentin. A small cavity in the enamel will have white color but will be black or brown when it has progressed. A cavity in the dentin will have a brown shade.

SMALL CAVITY ON SIDE OF TOOTH

Small cavity or any other cavity can be located on either the side facing the cheek or the side facing the tongue. The tongue facing side is the lingual while the cheek facing side is the facial or buccal, they are both known as the sides of the tooth.

In the early stage, the hole will look like a white spot but as the decay gets worse, the colour will change to brown or black. The texture will also be soft. Small cavity on side of the tooth may not show up during a dental x-ray unless it grows very large. If the cavity is not treated, it may affect the top of the tooth as well.

SMALL CAVITY IN FRONT TOOTH

It is easier to get cavity in teeth like the molars and premolars as they are somehow difficult to clean and they do the chewing and grinding job so leftovers can easily stick to them. However, it is also possible to get small cavity in front tooth. The color is usually white at the early stage but with time, it changes to brown or black. It may be difficult to see small cavity with your eyes, it will only be seen during x-ray at the dentist’s office. 

SMALL CAVITY ON TOP OF TOOTH

Cavity can occur on the chewing surface of the teeth known as the occlusal surface. The color of the cavity will start as very light brown like a discoloration but as the decay progresses, the color will change to black or a darker shade of brown. If you examine this hole with an instrument, the texture will be soft. During x-ray, this cavity on top of the tooth may not be seen. It will only be seen when the cavity is larger and it may spread to other teeth during this time. 

SMALL CAVITY IN A TOOTH FILLING

You can have small cavity in a tooth filling that had already been treated for cavities. This type of cavity is called recurrent decay as it is not the first time the teeth is having cavities. The color is usually brown inside the tooth fillings. If the cavity is close to the filling, the texture will be soft if you examine the hole with an instrument but if the cavity occurs under a filling, you may not be able to feel it unless you drill through the filling. 

You cannot see small cavity in a tooth filling during an x-ray as the filling material will cover it, you can only see the cavity by conducting visual clinical examinations.

SMALL CAVITY ON THE ROOT

Small cavity can occur on the root when the gums recede. As the gums moves back, bacteria and germs can gain access to the roots of the tooth and form cavities there. They hide on the root of the tooth and will have a brownish color like in other positions. The texture of the cavity will also be soft if you probe with an instrument.

CAN SMALL CAVITY GO AWAY ON THEIR OWN?

Small cavity can never go away on its own, it requires the intervention of humans. Remember that cavities are caused by plaques caused by acid and bacteria so these plaques and tartar cannot clean themselves. From the earliest stage, brushing will prevent most of the cavities so every dental problem can never go away on their own.

CAN YOU REVERSE A SMALL CAVITY?

Small cavity cannot go away on their own but it can be reversed. This reversion will only be possible if the cavity is very mild and detected in the early stage. If it becomes large, it cannot be reversed. There are two ways to reverse small cavity and they are by using fluoride toothpaste and hydroxyapatite toothpaste. 

Reversing a small cavity with a fluoride toothpaste is possible because the ions in the fluoride will replace the hydroxyl group of a mineral found in the teeth (known as hydroxyapatite) and become fluorapatite. This fluorapatite is more stable, harder and can stand against acids in the mouth than hydroxyapatite. It is also possible for fluoride to reverse small cavity as it can act as remineralizer more on the decayed enamel faster. 

Hydroxyapatite toothpaste can also be used to reverse small cavity because it can add more of the natural mineral to the tooth enamel making your teeth to have double layers of hydroxyapatite. The toothpaste also contains rich amounts of calcium and phosphate ions, which can help the teeth as remineralizer. Using hydroxyapatite toothpaste will not prevent the fluoride in the teeth from working so the teeth enamel can be strengthen by both minerals. 

FILLING A SMALL CAVITY

Filling a small cavity is done to prevent more damage or decay to the teeth and to relieve the symptoms or infection. The filling material can be amalgam, gold, composite or glass ionomer fillings. 

To fill a small cavity, the dentist will:

  • Apply numbing gel to the tooth gum. When the gel has started to show effects, local anesthetic will be injected into the gum. 
  • Remove the decayed area of the tooth using a drill or any other instrument.
  • Fill the hole with any filling material.
  • Polishes the fillings and adjust them so that they patient feels normal with them.

HOW TO GET RID OF A SMALL CAVITY

There are so many ways that you can get rid of small cavity, some of them are:

  1. Fillings
  2. Fluoride treatment
  3. Chewing sugarless gum after eating to help as a remineralizer the enamel.
  4. Root canals
  5. Crowns
  6. Teeth extraction in severe cases

CONCLUSION

Small cavity is just like the early stage of cavities that are not easily detected unless with an x-ray. This hole in the teeth is caused by bacteria and acid that feed on sugary and leftover food in the mouth. This is why it is advised that you brush after eating sweet food and drinks or chew sugarless gum. When you detect small cavity, it is best to get rid of it as soon as possible to avoid spreading and damaging other teeth in the mouth. 

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