You probably roughly know how dental cavities work, and it's not pleasant. The protective enamel coating a tooth corrodes and is breached, leading to the deterioration of the underlying dentin. The deterioration can develop to a further depth, reaching the pulp chamber in the centre of the tooth, where its nerve is found, often requiring a root canal. Ultimately, even total loss of the tooth is possible. Clearly, a cavity needs to be filled. Except when it doesn't. What does this mean?
Different Types of Cavities
There are numerous different types of cavities, affecting different parts of a tooth in different ways. While the overwhelming majority of cavities need to be filled, in order to restore the missing portions of the tooth structure and halt further deterioration, some cavities can be left alone. How is this possible?
Some cavities develop, grow to a certain (clinically insignificant) size, and then stop, reaching a state of arrested development. These are known as arrested cavities, and while they're still very much cavities, their existing size, depth, and the fact that they're unlikely to expand, all means that your dentist might suggest that the most appropriate course of action is to do nothing.
Arrested cavities will continue to be monitored as part of your regular dental checkups, but the likelihood is that the cavity will not cause any issues. This is dependent on your compliance with doing your utmost to keep your teeth clean, as some arrested cavities can be aggravated by the accumulation of plaque, which can lead to an expansion of the cavity and accelerated deterioration of your tooth.
Solutions (If Needed)
If there is any concern that the cavity isn't as unchanging as initially thought, then your dentist can certainly fill the cavity. It's generally avoided, as it's an unnecessary procedure since the nature of the cavity means that it's not actually compromising the structure of the tooth. However, since the cavity can present as a patch of discolouration (often with dark spots), then your dentist might fill the cavity as a cosmetic solution when the tooth in question is visible when you talk or smile.
It can never be assumed that a cavity is in fact an arrested cavity, and this must be confirmed by your dentist. So, as always, if you should spot anything that resembles a developing cavity, you need to make an appointment to see your dentist as soon as possible.Share