What are “Hidden Cavities?”
What are hidden cavities?
Hidden cavities are cavities that are essentially chewing surface cavities that are hard to see/unable to be seen through xrays and sometimes even with visual examination, yet they are large enough that the cavity itself has gone through the first layer of the tooth (enamel), and into the next layer which is far more porous (the dentin). When a cavity has reached this second layer of the tooth, the decay proliferates much more quickly because of the porous nature of the second layer of the tooth. As mentioned before, the majority of these “hidden cavities” occur on the chewing surfaces of the molars. Usually in the “pits” of the tooth, or along the fissures.
Because these cavities are harder to detect, those with them usually won’t know they exist until the cavity is much larger, or they begin to experience pain or sensitivity, which, at that point, requires more time and money be spent to get the cavity filled/taken care of.
Detecting them, however, is something we can do with other tools and knowledge. For instance, in our office we have a tool for spotting cavities that are hard to detect called a Diagnodent. It’s basically a device that uses light to measure the depth of a cavity by the distance the light travels before it bounces back into it, giving a numerical measurement of depth. We can also use an intra-oral camera to get a close-up view of your teeth. This will help us find subsurface stains and small white decalcification spots on the tooth. If these stains and white spots are present, there is about a 92% chance there is some decay that is present in that tooth (as some studies have shown).
The earlier a cavity in your teeth is spotted, the less the dentist has to do to fix it (either by sealing the tooth, or by cleaning out the decay and putting in a small filling), and the less time and money you have to spend to ensure that the cavity is sealed, repaired, and prevented from getting any worse.
What can be done with these smaller, “hidden cavities”?
Well, as mentioned above, fixing small cavities is much more simple than waiting for a cavity to get large enough to notice with the naked eye, or be easily seen on an xray. Some of the “fixes” for these smaller cavities are very simple, and very effective against that cavity getting larger and causing more problems. It’s a preventative measure, in that, when you have a hole in your tooth, you prevent that hole in your tooth from getting larger and causing more issues. I’d rather have a small hole in my tooth that has every possibility of getting larger (without getting it fixed by the dentist) get a filling, than risk waiting long enough for the cavity to spread, say, to my nerve and then need root canal therapy and a crown to go on the tooth, both of the latter being much more expensive treatments than a simple filling, or sealing of the tooth.
For most of these “hidden cavities”, the fix can be as simple as the dentist covering your tooth with a sealant (basically a thin layer of composite or plastic material that fills in these deep crevices and fissures to seal it off), or just giving you a very small filling to seal the tooth. Both of these procedures are very simple, and often require no numbing, but, will work to seal and protect the tooth from getting worse.
As mentioned before, it’s always much better to catch cavities in their formative stages, rather than wait for them to become more and more of a problem.
Stay healthy my friends.