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What types of cavities are there, and how to treat them?

Did you know that there are different types of cavities? In Dentistry, we make this distinction based on the area of ​​the tooth that has been affected by the carious lesion and its extension.

Below, we list what the different types of cavities are and how your trusted dentist will act to treat each one of them. 

Why do cavities appear?

Caries are, along with periodontal diseases, the most common oral pathologies. 

Interestingly, its incidence has been increasing in parallel with dietary changes in the population. While in ancient times there were hardly any cases of dental caries, in the Middle Ages the incidence of this pathology increased to 25% of the population. 

However, the exponential jump has occurred in the current era. In fact, today practically 100% of the population has suffered a cavity at some point in their lives. 

Its origin is usually linked to a lack of oral hygiene or inadequate dental cleaning techniques, such as brushing too little exhaustively for a short time.  

But, in addition, there are other factors that can affect their formation , such as: 

  • The lifestyle of the patients: the intake of alcoholic beverages on a regular basis or episodes of stress or anxiety that cause dry mouth. 
  • The diet of each person : a diet rich in sugars and carbohydrates, instead of a balanced diet, favors the appearance of carious lesions.
  • The age of the patients , since children and adolescents are more affected due to their diet and the lack of adequate oral cleaning routines. 

Caries appear due to the action of acids released by bacterial plaque , which is not always effectively removed thanks to tooth brushing. 

These acids damage the dental structure , starting with the most superficial layer. That is, the enamel. 

If it is not treated in time, this injury continues to advance to more internal layers such as dentin until it affects the dental nerve -or pulp-, in which case it compromises the stability of the piece.

What types of cavities exist?

In Dentistry, two different classifications of types of caries are established : depending on the area of ​​the tooth in which they appear, on the other hand, depending on the depth of the lesion in the tooth. 

Types of cavities depending on the area of ​​the teeth where they appear

This classification allows us to distinguish between the following types of caries: 

  • Crown caries affects the upper part of the tooth, the visible part with which we perform the chewing function. This area is where food is most likely to get stuck, and therefore this type of cavities is the most common . 
  • Brushing that is too aggressive or suffering from periodontal diseases can lead to receding gums. On these occasions, the root of the tooth is exposed to the attack of pathogenic agents. Root caries is one that directly affects the root of a tooth. It is the most aggressive , and one of the main causes of tooth loss. 
  • Interproximal caries is one of the most difficult to detect. It forms in the interdental spaces -that is, those present between two teeth-. In this area it is common for bacterial plaque to be lodged in case of not completing oral hygiene with the use of dental floss. 
  • We call recurrent caries that which reappears around a dental filling. Also known as secondary caries, a double distinction can be made between new caries and lesions that have reproduced because, at the time of filling, the tissues were not properly cleaned. 

Types of caries depending on the part of the tooth that is affected

The second classification is related to the different areas of a tooth where caries can appear. In this regard, we can distinguish between: 

  • First, enamel caries . Of all, this is the most common injury. It occurs when caries begins to attack the enamel surface, which protects the tooth against attack by external agents. Its most obvious sign is the appearance of a white spot on the dental surface. If its symptoms are ignored or not detected in time, it can cause cavitation -that is, an advance of the necrotic tissue towards the inner layers of the tooth-. 
  • Dentin caries affects the layer that underlies tooth enamel. Its color is more yellowish, and it is usually visible when the patient suffers from severe wear, dental erosion or caries in a more advanced stage. 
  • Lastly, rampant caries is a type of fulminating lesion. It develops very quickly and causes a lot of damage, generally related to the stability of the affected tooth. Given its rapid progress, the infection quickly reaches the pulp and the internal tissues of the crown, reaching necrosis of the nerve and causing the loss of the tooth. 

Treatment for the different types of dental caries

When dealing with a cavity, the specialist must take into account how deep the lesion is and where it is located. 

In this regard, there are five fundamental treatments : obturation -or filling-, endodontics in adults, pulpectomy or pulpotomy in children and, in the last case, the extraction of the damaged tooth. 

What is a dental filling? 

A dental filling is the ideal treatment to treat superficial cavities that affect the enamel and even the dentin. It is also the most suitable treatment to tackle crown or interproximal caries. 

A filling -or filling- consists of the elimination of the damaged tissue thanks to the use of a rotating head instrument that facilitates the extraction. Subsequently, the cavity will be sealed with a composite resin, restoring aesthetics and functionality to the piece. 

The filling is a simple procedure that allows to stop the advance of dental caries towards the inner layers of the tooth -nerve- and avoids the need to carry out a more complex treatment such as for example, a root canal. 

When is a root canal performed? 

Endodontics -also known as “root canal treatment”- is indicated in those cases in which the carious lesion is extensive. In other words, it affects the pulp or nerve tissue and has already led to a significant loss of tooth structure. 

This treatment consists of removing the necrotic nerve and subsequently sealing the area. On some occasions, the piece must be restored by placing a dental inlay or, failing that, a dental crown. 

Endodontics is a conservative treatment that allows a damaged piece to be kept in the mouth that, if not intervened, should be extracted. 

Thanks to its realization, this tooth recovers its functionality and the dentist avoids carrying out a more expensive and invasive treatment such as the placement of a dental implant.

Pulpectomy or pulpotomy to treat cavities in children

In the event that extensive caries has damaged a baby tooth , the pediatric dentist will assess the need for a pulpectomy or pulpotomy. 

This procedure is very similar to performing a root canal in adult patients. 

Its objective is to prevent the premature loss of a temporary piece and, in turn, avoid the risks that this entails. For example, the appearance of occlusion problems with the eruption of the final pieces.

Tooth extraction with cavities

In the most severe cases, the dentist cannot do anything to preserve the tooth in the mouth . This situation is frequent in patients who do not respect their routine visits to the dentist or who suffer from cavities that are difficult to see -for example, interproximal ones-.

On these occasions, the patient has suffered a significant loss of tooth structure and the dental nerve has become necrotic . Therefore, recovering it is impossible. 

The extraction of the dental piece will be followed by the placement of a dental implant that restores the lost tooth. 

How can all types of cavities be prevented? 

Dentists never tire of repeating it: rigorous oral hygiene is the best remedy to prevent the formation of cavities . Make sure you brush your teeth after every meal and, if you are a father or mother, remember to check that your son or daughter brushes their teeth properly. 

In addition, it is important that you stay hydrated throughout the day. To do this, drink enough water -2 to 3 liters a day- and avoid regular consumption of acidic and sugary drinks, such as soft drinks. 

Reduce the consumption of alcoholic beverages , which reduce salivary flow and induce the appearance of cavities, and maintain a balanced diet with a low content of sugars and carbohydrates. 

Finally, remember that you must respect the check-ups scheduled by your trusted dentist to detect carious lesions in time. 

And, in case you notice any typical symptoms of having a cavity, go to your trusted dental clinic. An accurate diagnosis and timely treatment are key when it comes to avoiding future complications. 

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