Watching a few spots
You have probably been told that we want to “watch” a tooth before…but do you know what that means? First, you need to know that teeth have different layers. The outer surface of the tooth is called enamel; this is the strongest, most dense part of the tooth. Under the enamel is a softer layer called dentin. When we take x-rays, we are looking for dark spots (areas of the tooth that are less dense), this would mean that a cavity has started to take good minerals out of the tooth. If this dark spot is only in the enamel layer, there is a chance that with really good flossing and fluoride the tooth can remineralize and heal (the dark spot will go away and not need a filling). This is one of the circumstances that we would “watch” a tooth. So, a “watch” will either re-mineralize, stay the same, or the decay will progress into the dentin (the soft part of the tooth). Once decay has reached the dentin we want to fill it as soon as possible because this layer is soft and the decay can grow quickly. We don’t only “watch” surfaces between the teeth, it is possible to see the start of a cavity on any surface of the tooth. De-mineralization appears as white spots, if we see them we will recommend fluoride treatments and really good home care to try and prevent them from turning into a cavity.