Cavity between teeth is called an ‘interproximal cavity’. A cavity occurs when bacteria builds up on a tooth where enamel has become worn. Plaque is a clear, sticky film that covers your teeth. Bacteria begin to feed on the teeth and form plaque. An excess build up can be caused by eating too much sugar and starch, and not brushing thoroughly.
What Is Cavity Between Teeth?
Cavity between teeth happens when the plaque stays on your tooth and hardens, and your gums are lined with tartar. Acid from plaque removes minerals from the external enamel. This erosion causes tiny openings or holes in the enamel, the first stage of a cavity. As soon as an area of the enamel is worn out by bacteria, the acid enters the next layer of the teeth, dentine.
Dentine is the main supporting structure in a tooth. The dentinal tubule is made up of around 30-40,000 tiny tubes which extend from the surface to the pulp of your tooth. These tiny tubes communicate with the nerves in your teeth and can cause sensitivity.
As tooth decay grows, bacteria and acid continue to pass through the teeth and enter into the inner teeth of the dental material, the pulp which contains nerves and blood vessels. The pulp swells and is irritated by the bacteria.
In some places, the swelling extends into the tooth and the nerves of the teeth are compressed, causing pain. The complaints can extend from the tooth to the roots, requiring a procedure called a root canal.
Cavities can occur in the posterior teeth (molars and premolars). These teeth have many grooves and several roots that collect food particles. As a result, they are harder to keep clean than your smoother, more accessible front teeth. Sugary foods stick to the teeth for long periods of time and more likely to cause tooth decay than foods swept away by saliva. Try to avoid or reduce the following foods:
- ice cream
- sugary soda
- dried fruit
- hard sweets
- dried cereals
Symptoms Of Cavity Between Teeth
Cavity between teeth (interproximal cavities) or cavities between the molars exhibit some common symptoms. These symptoms occur when the cavity reaches the dentine, the second layer of tissue after your enamel. You may have problems chewing food or pain or discomfort in this region. You may also experience sensitivity to hot or cold food and drinks. Fluoride, a naturally occurring mineral, can help prevent cavities and reverse tooth decay.
At the early stages of a cavity, you may not experience any symptoms at all. However, you should make an appointment with your dentist if you experience any of the following symptoms:
- Tooth sensitivity
- A sharp pain while eating or drinking something sweet, hot or cold
- Holes or darkened pits in a tooth
- Discolouration or staining on a tooth (usually black, brown or white spots)
- Pain when you chew or clench your teeth
You should visit your dentist regularly for check ups and cleanings to prevent cavities occurring and a build up of plaque or tartar. It is recommended to visit your dentist every 6 months and more frequently if you are prone to dental issues.
Causes Of Cavity Between Teeth
Sipping lemonade and other acidic drinks throughout the day can help create a continuous acid bath for your teeth. When you snack on sugary foods or drink sugary drinks, you give oral bacteria more fuel to produce acid that attacks and wears your teeth out. Babies who are given bottles containing milk, formula, juice or other sugary liquids can be affected by bacteria and these remain in their teeth for hours after feeding.
Everyone with teeth can develop a cavity. However certain factors can put a person at higher risk. Below are a few factors to keep in mind and ways to lower the risk of cavity caused by them:
- Keep back teeth clean: It is easier for food to get stuck in the back of your teeth, and it is also more difficult to keep these teeth clean. Your molars and premolars have more grooves, pits and roots than your smoother front teeth. Brushing twice a day, flossing and regular cleaning visits to the dentist can reduce bacteria and plaque build up. Using an anti-bacterial mouthwash can also help.
- Sugary foods and drinks: Im sure you’ve constantly heard this growing up. Avoid sugary foods and sticky foods that easily leave a sugar residue in between your teeth.
- Constant snacking and sipping: Continuously snacking or sipping on sugary foods and drinks creates a constant acid attack on your teeth. Instead, drink water often.
- Baby bottle tooth decay: When babies or infants are given bottles before bed which are filled with milk, formula, fruit juice or other sugary drinks, these sugars stick to the teeth and stay there all night causing damage. Always clean your childs teeth after feeding and avoid giving them a bottle in bed. Avoid giving them sugary drinks and try not to let them use the bottle as a pacifier. Use a pacifier instead or a bottle with plain water.
- Not brushing enough: It is recommended to brush your teeth every time after eating. Especially in the morning and before bed. Use a toothpaste containing fluoride and floss daily.
- Insufficient fluoride: Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral which aids in preventing cavities. It also helps to reverse the start of tooth decay. It is a common ingredient in oral hygiene products.
- Age: Cavities are more common in younger children and teenagers, mainly due to diet and oral hygiene. They are also common in older people, as teeth can wear down with age and gums tend to recede. Some medications that elderly people take can reduce the saliva in your mouth, which leads to a higher risk of tooth decay.
- Dry mouth: Saliva has many substances which help to counteract acid produced by bacteria. Saliva is also needed to wash away food and plaque in your mouth. Certain medications and drugs or medical conditions can cause a dry mouth. Be sure to stay hydrated or speak to your doctor and dentist about your concerns.
- Old fillings or oral devices: Your filling or dental device can wear with time, allowing bacteria to get to the weakened tooth. Visiting your dentist regularly for check ups and avoiding sticky foods can help prevent further problems.
- Gastro issues: Heartburn, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and other conditions that cause excess stomach acid to get into your mouth (acid reflux) will wear away your tooth enamel. Consult your doctor about managing your acid reflux.
- Eating disorders: The most common eating disorders are anorexia and bulimia. Both lead to significant erosion and cavities in teeth due to excess stomach acid from vomiting (purging) and restricting a healthy diet. Consult your doctor to help you maintain your eating disorder.
How To Fix Cavity Between Teeth
If your cavity is found very early, a fluoride treatment (in the form of a gel, foam, varnish or liquid) can be applied by your dentist. This will help to restore enamel and sometimes reverse the damage.
An early detected cavity can be treated with a simple filling. The tooth is drilled in order to remove cavities and then filled with a material such as porcelain, gold, silver, resin or amalgam. After the filling, the cavity is expanded with more enamel and the filling is used to restore the tooth to its normal shape and function.
If the cavity is severe and left undetected and untreated for a long time, root canal treatment may be the best option to save the tooth. A root canal involves the removal of the gums from the inside of the teeth. The tooth is cleaned and disinfected and the shape of the filling is sealed in the hole. After a root canal a crown is added. The crown is made of a variety of materials, including ceramic, composite, resin, metal, porcelain or a combination of both. It looks like a cover for the tooth to protect it.
In severe cases, the tooth will have to be extracted and replaced with a dental implant.
Diagnosis Of Cavities Between Teeth
The diagnosis of cavity between teeth is made with an X-ray. This enables the dentist to assess the extent of the dental cavity. When the depth of the cavity is deep enough, it appears on an X-ray image. As soon as the cavity enters the enamel, a filling is the appropriate treatment. The material of choice for dental fillings should be a white composite (plastic) or a silver-containing amalgam
Clinical assessment and visual inspection by your dentist is crucial for early detection.