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What Is a Smooth Surface Cavity?

Did you know that cavities can form anywhere on a tooth? Cavity-causing germs 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 a tooth's side or circumference. The good news is that 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 categorise cavities according to where they appear on the tooth and their level of damage. 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 neighbouring tooth
  • Cervical surfaces, which are the parts of the teeth next to the gums
  • 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, we call this a sound surface. The beginning stage of cavity formation is called an initial caries lesion. This early damage 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 the damage 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 damage 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, cavity formation on the smooth surface of a tooth can be reversed. A study in the Journal of Oral Hygiene & Health, an online, peer-reviewed academic journal, mentions that fluoride can help to remineralise areas of early decay in smooth surfaces. Another option is treatment with specialised resin that blocks tiny holes in smooth surface enamel, preventing the growth of germs and halting the damage to the tooth.

If the damage has progressed and a cavity has already developed, your dentist can still provide treatment to prevent the condition from worsening. According to the United States Mayo Clinic, there are several possible treatments for a cavity, depending on how advanced the damage 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 damage has reached the sensitive inner pulp of a tooth, a root canal may be required to remove the affected 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 cavities, including smooth surface cavities. To avoid dental decay, the Oral Hygiene Association of South Africa (OHASA) recommends brushing your teeth for at least 2 minutes, twice a day. 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 damage before it develops into a cavity. If your dentist believes your teeth are at risk of cavities, they may advise you to rinse once a 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 fluoridated water, 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. Practise good oral hygiene and visit your dentist regularly, so they can spot the early signs of cavities that can be reversed.

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