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When tooth decay penetrates enamel, a cavity develops. Oral bacteria that eat away at the hard tissues of teeth over time cause tooth decay.
Cavities can form on any exposed surface of teeth, including between them. The bacteria that form plaque and cause tooth decay can easily live on, between, and around your teeth.
Cavities between teeth (interproximal cavities) are more likely to develop if you fail to floss regularly. Flossing disrupts plaque buildup between teeth. Your diet and overall oral health also play a role.
An interproximal cavity may not be noticeable at first. You may not realize you have a cavity between your teeth until it causes pain.
Depending on the exact location and how long the decay has been spreading, you may notice the following:
It’s also possible you won’t see a cavity between your teeth. Your dentist will be able to diagnose it using a bitewing X-ray.
While your dentist can easily treat cavities of any kind, it’s best to prevent them in the first place. You can do the following to avoid cavities forming between your teeth:
Interproximal cavities can be treated in several ways, depending on their location and how far they’ve spread. Here are the main ways dentists treat cavities, from least to most invasive:
Demineralization and remineralization both happen to your teeth daily. Your teeth lose some mineral content every time you eat or drink, but your saliva naturally replenishes it.
However, decay-causing bacteria destroy more mineral content than you can gain back. This allows them to eat away at your teeth.
If you have a new cavity that’s still forming, your dentist can use fluoride gel to remineralize it rapidly. This restores your enamel to its normal state.
If the decay has already moved through your enamel, your dentist will need to treat it with a filling.
To place a filling, your dentist will clean away the decayed tissue. Then they’ll fill the remaining space with composite resin, metal, or another material.
Fillings are a standard and relatively fast treatment for cavities. Dentists can place multiple fillings in a single session.
In some cases, cavities require removing a significant amount of dental tissue. This can make placing a filling difficult or impossible.
For this reason, it’s sometimes necessary to cover what’s left of the tooth instead of filling it in. The covering is called a dental crown. It protects the tooth underneath from further damage.
Crowns are designed to mimic your natural teeth' shape, color, and function. They can be made of porcelain or composite resin.
Root canal therapy, often called a root canal, may be needed for teeth with severe decay. The procedure removes the pulp and nerve endings from the tooth to the roots.
Once treated this way, the tooth no longer has soft tissue that can feel pain. However, your care provider will preserve the tooth’s hard tissue as much as possible.
A root canal generally follows the placement of a filling or crown, depending on how much hard tissue is left.
If tooth decay is left to spread long enough, the entire tooth may need to be removed. The gap left by the missing tooth can then be filled with a dental implant or bridge, or removable partial denture.
Tooth extraction is generally considered a last resort for decayed teeth that can’t be treated any other way.
Generally, interproximal cavities have a similar outlook as other cavities. They can be effectively treated in various ways, using procedures for any cavity.
Like other cavities, cavities between teeth benefit most from early treatment. The longer you wait to get a cavity treated, the more the decay will spread. This could lead to needing a root canal or extraction.
Tooth decay can affect any part of a tooth exposed to your oral cavity. This means it’s possible to have cavities between your teeth, also called interproximal cavities.
These cavities can be treated just like other cavities. They may require restorative procedures such as fillings and crowns.
You must brush and floss your teeth daily to prevent cavities from forming between your teeth. Flossing is especially important. It allows you to remove plaque in the hard-to-reach spaces between your teeth.
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