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What Exactly Is a Cavity?

A cavity is basically just a holeSo, we brush and floss twice a day (or know that we should, at the very least). We do so because our dentists tell us that if we don’t, we’ll get cavities. This is an especially big problem for children.

But what is a cavity, anyway? Let’s discuss the ins and outs of cavities, including what causes them, what happens if you don’t treat them, and how you treat them.

What Is a Cavity?

A cavity in your tooth is just like a cavity in a wall or anywhere else – it’s a hole on or in your tooth.

What Causes Cavities?

Your mouth is always filled with bacteria of all sorts.

Some forms of your mouth bacteria stick to your teeth, forming a mossy, colorless coating known as plaque.

Whenever you have a meal, especially when your meal is loaded with sugar or starch, the food reacts to those bacteria, producing acid. These acids eat away at the outer part of teeth, creating a cavity.

If you don’t brush and floss regularly, plaque hardens into dental calculus/tartar, which is even more damaging.

What Happens If Cavities Go Untreated?

Let’s answer this question with another question – have you ever had a root canal? Even if you haven’t, you probably know that you don’t want one. Root canals have quite a fearsome reputation.

Truth be told, root canals aren’t near as bad as their reputation suggests. Anesthetic takes all the pain away from the procedure itself. But still, this is not something you want. Root canals are relatively expensive procedures, and they can be uncomfortable.

A root canal is what has to happen if you just ignore a cavity.

Enamel is the attractive part of the tooth –white and shiny – but it also serves a very important function. It protects the sensitive pulp inside the tooth from all the bacteria that’s on the outside. Cavities grow wider and deeper over time, allowing more bacteria to flow in. Eventually, these bacteria can infect the nerve at the root of the tooth, which can inflict a lot of pain. When this happens, you need immediate intervention.

How Do You Treat a Cavity?

You treat a cavity just like any other unwanted hole – you fill it up.

At Kirkland Family Dentistry, we use tooth-colored composite resin for our fillings, as they are much safer (no mercury) and more natural-looking than traditional metal amalgam fillings.

Feel free to contact us if you have any questions about fillings or any of our other dental services.

Dr. Jonathan Everett
Dr. Jonathan Everett received his Doctor of Dental Surgery from the University of Washington and completed his undergraduate studies in biochemistry at Washington State University. During this time, Dr. Everett served as both the President of the American Student Dental Association chapter as well as the Student Council Vice President. As a board-member of DentPAC for the Washington State Dental Association, Dr. Everett fought to maintain the quality of dental care provided in Washington State by working with state legislators and advocating for patient-centered dentistry in Olympia.
Dr. Jonathan Everett
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