What are the different parts of teeth, and what are cavities? Find out more about tooth anatomy and how you can prevent tooth decay and tooth cavity.
Parts of Teeth
Every tooth has a specific job or function
"Cavities" is another way of saying tooth decay. Tooth decay is heavily influenced by our lifestyle, what we eat, how well we take care of our teeth, and the presence of fluoride in our water and toothpaste. Heredity also plays a role in how susceptible your teeth may be to decay.
While cavities are generally more common among children, adults are also at risk. The types of cavities include:
Adults are especially at risk for cavities or tooth decay if they suffer from dry mouth, a condition due to a lack of saliva. Dry mouth may be caused by illness, medications, radiation therapy and chemotherapy, and may be temporary (days to months) or permanent, depending on its cause.
Cavities are very serious. Left untreated, a tooth cavity can destroy your tooth and kill the delicate nerves at its centre, which may result in an abscess, an area of infection at the root tip. Once an abscess forms, it can only be treated with a root canal, surgery or by extracting the tooth.
Only your dentist can tell for sure whether you have a tooth cavity. That's because cavities develop below the tooth's surface, where you can't see them. When you eat foods that contain carbohydrates (sugars and starches), these carbohydrates are eaten by the bacteria in plaque, producing acids that eat into the tooth. Over time, the tooth enamel begins to break down beneath the surface while the surface remains intact. When enough of the sub-surface enamel is eaten away, the surface collapses, forming a cavity.
Cavities are most likely to develop in pits on the chewing surfaces of the back teeth, in between teeth, and near the gumline. But regardless of where they occur, the best way to spot them and treat them before they become serious is by visiting your dentist regularly for check-ups.
Fluoride is a natural mineral found throughout the earth's crust and widely distributed in nature. Some foods and water supplies contain fluoride.
Fluoride is often added to drinking water to help reduce tooth decay. In the 1930s, researchers found that people who grew up drinking naturally fluoridated water had up to two-thirds fewer cavities than people living in areas without fluoridated water.
Studies since then have repeatedly shown that when fluoride is added to a community's water supply, tooth decay decreases. The American Dental Association, the World Health Organization and the American Medical Association, among many other organisations, have endorsed the use of fluoride in water supplies because of its effect on tooth decay.
Fluoride helps prevent cavities in two different ways:
If your drinking water is fluoridated, then brushing regularly with fluoride toothpaste is considered sufficient for adults and children with healthy teeth at low risk of decay.
If your community's water is not fluoridated and does not have enough natural fluoride in it (1 part per million is considered optimal), then your dentist or paediatrician may prescribe fluoride tablets or drops for your children to take daily. Your dentist or paediatrician can tell you how much fluoride is right for your family, so be sure to ask for his or her advice.
If your water comes from a public water supply, you can find out if it's fluoridated by calling your local water district. If your water comes from a private well, you can have it analyzed by an independent environmental testing company that provides water-testing services.
Sometimes called baby bottle tooth decay, early childhood cavities is a serious disease that can destroy your child's teeth, but it can be prevented.
Your child can fall asleep without a bottle! Here are five tips to try:
Your child's healthy teeth and brilliant smile depend on you!
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This article was last reviewed on
22 Nov 2023
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