What Is a Smooth Surface Cavity?

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Did you know that cavities can form anywhere on a tooth? Cavity-causing bacteria can attack all areas of a tooth, including the top, the sides and the root, if it's exposed. A smooth surface cavity may appear on the side or the circumference of a tooth. The good news is, a dental professional can treat this type of cavity and prevent it from growing larger and weakening the tooth structure.

Types of Dental Cavities

Dental professionals categorize cavities according to where they appear on the tooth and their level of decay. As an article in The Journal of the American Dental Association outlines, there are different sites on a tooth where cavities can develop:

  • Pits and fissures, or the biting surfaces of your teeth
  • Approximal surfaces, where a tooth touches the neighboring tooth
  • Cervical surfaces, which are the parts of the teeth next to the gums
  • Smooth surfaces, can occur on the circumference of the tooth or in between the teeth
  • Roots, the parts of the tooth below the gumline

When the smooth surface or any other part of the tooth is entirely healthy, it's called a sound surface. The beginning stage of decay is called an initial caries lesion. This early decay often appears as a white spot on the tooth's enamel. At this stage, the surface remains whole and no cavity has formed. The next stage of decay is called a moderate caries lesion; tiny holes may have appeared in the affected area, the beige dentin beneath the enamel may show through or a shallow cavity may have formed. Finally, the most advanced and severe decay is known as an advanced caries lesion. In this final stage, the dentin layer of the tooth is exposed and a full cavity has formed.

Smooth Surface Cavity Treatment

In its earliest stage, decay on the smooth surface of a tooth can be reversed. A study in the Journal of Oral Hygiene & Health mentions that fluoride can help to remineralize areas of early decay in smooth surfaces. Another option is treatment with specialized resin that blocks tiny holes in smooth surface enamel, preventing the growth of bacteria and halting the progress of decay.

If the decay has progressed and a cavity has already developed, your dentist can still provide treatment to prevent the condition from worsening. According to the Mayo Clinic, there are several possible treatments for a cavity, depending on how advanced the decay is:

  • Fillings: These help prevent moderate cavities from growing larger.
  • Crowns: This treatment can restore a tooth that has been weakened by a large cavity.
  • Root canals: If the decay has reached the sensitive inner pulp of a tooth, then a root canal may be required to remove the infected nerve.
  • Tooth extraction: Once a smooth surface cavity has weakened a tooth beyond saving, extracting the tooth may be the only remaining solution.

How to Prevent a Smooth Surface Cavity

Poor oral hygiene is responsible for tooth decay, including smooth surface cavities. To avoid dental decay, the Mayo Clinic states that you should brush your teeth twice per day with fluoride toothpaste. You should also visit your dentist every six months or as often as they recommend. At these appointments, they can check for and treat early decay before it develops into a cavity. If your dentist believes your teeth are at risk of decay, they may advise you to rinse once per day with a fluoride mouthwash. They may also provide in-office fluoride treatments to strengthen your tooth enamel. To further protect your teeth, you might consider drinking your local tap water if it's fluoridated, avoiding snacking or sipping beverages other than water during the day and eating tooth-friendly foods, such as fruits and vegetables.

A smooth surface cavity requires treatment, but it's entirely preventable. Practice good oral hygiene and visit your dentist regularly, so they can spot the early signs of decay that can be reversed.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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