Cavity. That's the word no one wants to hear at the dentist's office. A cavity (say: ka-vuh-tee) develops when a tooth decays (say: dih-kaze), or breaks down. A cavity is a hole that can grow bigger and deeper over time. Cavities are also called dental caries (say: kar-eez), and if you have a cavity, it's important to get it repaired.
But why would your tooth develop a hole? Blame plaque. That's a sticky, slimy substance made up mostly of the germs that cause tooth decay. The bacteria in your mouth make acids and when plaque clings to your teeth, the acids can eat away at the outermost layer of the tooth, called the enamel (say: ih-na-mul).
If you don't go to the dentist, the acids can continue to make their way through the enamel, and the inside parts of your tooth can begin to decay. If you've ever had a toothache or heard an adult complain about one, it may have been because there was a cavity that reached all the way inside a tooth, where the nerve endings are. Ouch!
Your dentist will carefully examine your teeth and may take X-rays. If your dentist discovers a cavity, he or she can repair it for you by first removing the rotted part of your tooth with a special drill. The dentist then fills the hole in your tooth with a special material. The result is called a filling.
Does it hurt? Sometimes it does, but your dentist can give you an anesthestic. That's a kind of medicine that will numb the area around the problem tooth while you're getting your new filling.
Though cavities can be repaired, try to avoid them by taking care of your teeth. Here's how:
Reviewed by: Charlie J. Inga, DDS
Date reviewed: November 2011
|American Dental Association (ADA) The ADA provides information for dental patients and consumers.|
|MouthPower This site was created by the Dr. Samuel D. Harris National Museum of Dentistry in Baltimore, Maryland. Through games and other activities, kids can learn how to take care of their teeth and mouth.|
|Healthy Teeth Produced by dentists, Healthy Teeth is designed for elementary-age students curious about oral health.|
|Going to the Dentist What happens when you go to the dentist? Find out in this article for kids.|
|Bad Breath How does your breath smell? Find out how to keep it smelling sweet in this article for kids.|
|Braces Braces are a fact of life for many kids. Find out how they work in this article for kids.|
|How Does Fluoride Work? Fluoride fights cavities. Find out how in this article for kids.|
|Going to the Orthodontist An orthodontist prevents and treats mouth, teeth, and jaw problems using braces, retainers, and other devices.|
|Taking Care of Your Teeth The healthier your teeth are, the happier you look. That's why it's important to take great care of your teeth by brushing, flossing, and visiting the dentist. Learn more.|
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