How do dentists detect cavities?

Cavities are extremely common—it’s said that at least 92% of people get a cavity by the time they reach adulthood! Dentists have been using various methods over the years to detect and treat cavities. In this post, we’re covering the main ways that Lakewood, CO dentists detect cavities today.

First, we’ll cover what a cavity actually is.

What are cavities?

Cavities are permanently damaged areas in the hard surface of your teeth that develop into tiny openings or holes from tooth decay. They are caused by a combination of factors such as bacteria in your mouth, sugary drinks, frequent snacking, improper flossing or lack of dental cleanings.

If cavities are left untreated, they get larger and can affect deeper layers of your teeth that cause problems. Cavities can lead to a severe toothache, infection and tooth loss. Regular dental visits and good brushing and flossing habits are your best protection against cavities and tooth decay.

Image via Healthline

Dental examination

Sometimes your dentist is able to tell that you have a cavity just by looking at your mouth through an oral exam. They will look for things like discoloration, enamel destruction, or holes in the teeth. They may also use a probe or dental explorer to check the crevices of your teeth for decay and look for any soft spots or sensitivity. Many times Dr. Turner will take a photograph of your tooth and be able to show you exactly what is happening.  But dental examinations don’t always unveil the severity level of tooth decay.  

Dental x-rays

Oftentimes, there is dental damage and disease that is not visible during a regular dental exam. Cavity detecting dental x-rays are helpful in determining the seriousness of a cavity. They can also detect and reveal decay particularly in between the teeth.  The earlier we catch a cavity, or the start of one, the more chance we have to actually REVERSE it, or keep it small! 

Dental x-rays are pictures of the teeth, bones, and soft tissues around them to help find problems with the teeth, mouth, and jaw. X-ray pictures can show cavities, hidden dental structures (like your wisdom teeth), and bone loss that cannot be seen during a visual examination.  

The radiation exposure of dental x-rays is less than you get outside on a sunny day in Colorado!  Dr. Turner always uses the principle of ALARA, or “as low as reasonably achievable” when it comes to dental x-rays.  This means that she will always look at your specific situation, and if that means that dental x-rays are not necessary, they won’t be taken.  She does believe there is tremendous benefit to dental x-rays, and that the risk of not taking them can be high if cavities or weak enamel is missed!  

Ways to prevent cavities

When you take the time to take care of your teeth, you’ll find that you’ll develop fewer cavities. You can help prevent cavities by regularly visiting the dentist, brushing twice a day with a hydroxyapatite or fluoride toothpaste, and cleaning daily between your teeth with dental floss. 

Going to the dentist regularly is a major proponent in keeping your teeth healthy and cavity-free. Plus, Dr. Turner loves to see you and hear about whatever fun things you’ve been up to. Schedule your routine dental cleaning today, call us at 303-732-8909 or book an appointment online.

To learn more about our general dentistry services at our Lakewood, Colorado dental clinic, visit this page here.

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