3 Different Types of Cavities and How They're Fixed

More than nine out of 10 American adults have cavities, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. What's more, more than a quarter of American adults have untreated tooth decay. Left untreated, cavities can lead to tooth abscess or even tooth loss. Learn more about the different types of cavities and how simply dentists can treat them.

Root Cavities

3 Types of Cavities and How they're Fixed

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Root cavities are located on the surface of the roots of the teeth. They most commonly occur among older adults, the demographic most likely to have receding gums and other gum disorders. When gums recede, the roots are left exposed. They are vulnerable to tooth decay because they aren't covered in hard, protective enamel as teeth are.

Removing the decay is the first step in treating root cavities. The cavity is then replaced with a filling or crown. Modern tooth-colored composite filling material is barely noticeable when you speak or smile. In severe cases, when the decay has spread to the tooth's pulp, root canal treatment may be advised.

The damage root cavities cause spreads quickly because the cementum that covers a tooth's root isn't as tough as enamel. That's why it's important to fix a root cavity as soon as it's detected.

Pit and Fissure Cavities

You'll find pit and fissure cavities on the chewing surfaces of the teeth. They are most common on the back teeth. This type of cavity usually occurs when people are inconsistent or careless with their oral hygiene habits. They are a very common type of cavity, as it's easy for food particles and plaque to get stuck in the grooves and crevices on the top of the teeth.

On early detection, a pit and fissure cavity may be treated with a good fluoride toothpaste. Once the cavity reaches the dentin the decay must be removed and the tooth repaired with fillings, composites, or crowns. Fillings and composites are appropriate for small to medium cavities, whereas large pit and fissure cavities require crowns.

Smooth-Surface Cavities

Smooth-surface cavities occur on the flat exterior surface of the teeth. They are most commonly found on the teeth at the sides of the mouth. Like pit and fissure cavities, they also occur when people do not brush correctly or regularly. These are some of the slowest-growing cavities and are also the least common.

Smooth-surface cavities are the easiest for dentists to treat. Some may not need filling at all and can instead resolve themselves with fluoride treatments, such as toothpaste, gels, varnishes, or fluoride-enriched water. Regular dental flossing using the correct technique can also be helpful.

It takes some time for tooth decay to eat through the enamel on the teeth's smooth surfaces, as this is where the enamel is thickest. However, if your cavity progresses this far, you will require a filling.

Save Money on Your Cavity Treatment

Visiting your dentist at least every six months is one of the easiest ways to save money on your cavity treatment. When your dentist regularly monitors your teeth, he or she can notice cavities when they appear and treat them when they are still relatively minor problems. Often you won't feel any pain when your cavity is small, so you shouldn't wait for discomfort to book your next dental appointment. 

You can also save money by joining a dental discount plan. On average, treating a cavity costs between $100 and $250. In addition, you'll need to spend money on your oral exam and cleaning. These additional expenses put the average price of your dental visit at $361, which is a lot for anyone to pay at once.

The Carefree Dental Discount Card will typically save you 49 percent on dental fillings. Further savings on your oral exam and cleaning will help take the average cost down from $361 to just $189. Unlike dental insurance, your discount card can also help you save on treating any cavities your spouse and children might have, too.

Preventing Cavities

Although treating cavities is relatively simple when they are caught early, prevention is always better than a cure. Cavities occur when plaque builds up on the teeth. Regular daily brushing and flossing helps to remove this plaque and minimizes the risk of cavities.

Dentist visits are also really important for prevention. Your dentist will give your teeth a thorough cleaning and also identify any parts of your mouth you're not adequately brushing. Don't delay getting the care you need, and don't let a lack of insurance prevent you from keeping your teeth their healthiest. After all, how long has it been since your last checkup?

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