What is a Precavity?

By Aaron Strickland, D.D.S. on December 15, 2017

Precavities in teeth, White River Dental, Columbus, Indiana Dentist

If you’ve ever been diagnosed with a precavity, you might have wondered what it is and how your dentist identified it. Precavities are areas of your teeth where the enamel has been demineralized or has worn thin. They aren’t a form a cavity-lite. Cavities occur when acid from food and bacteria has worn away tooth enamel all the way down to the dentin, the inner part of the tooth. With a precavity, the acid has begun wearing the enamel, but it hasn’t yet reached the dentin. They are a sign that you need to remineralize—or rebuild—your tooth enamel.

Identifying precavities is simple. Precavities appear as opaque white, yellowish, or brown spots on your teeth. They’re common in children and appear before cavities form.

The best way to prevent precavities from forming is to brush twice daily with fluoride-containing toothpaste and to floss once daily. Staying away from sugary foods and drinks also helps reduce the likelihood of forming cavities as does reducing the amount of acidic foods you consume.

Treating Precavities and Preventing Cavities

If your dentist has told you that you or your child has precavities, know there are things ways to remineralize the damaged teeth, thereby reversing the damage.

Change Your Habits

The first thing you should do to strengthen your teeth is to change habits. If you are not already doing so, begin a daily regimen of flossing and brushing with an ADA-approved, fluoride-containing toothpaste. Rinsing with a remineralizing mouthwash is also a good idea.

Also begin drinking more tap water. Public water is treated with fluoride, which will help rebuild your enamel. Cut out excess sugar, starches, and acidic foods from your diet, as well. Getting rid of sugary foods will decrease the food available to bacteria in your mouth that produces acid. Reducing the amount of acidic food you consume will likewise reduce the amount of acid your teeth encounter.

Fluoride Varnish

Beyond changing your habits, there are some treatments your dentist may recommend to further strengthen your teeth. One such treatment is fluoride varnish.

Fluoride varnish is a paste with a high concentration of fluoride. The resin-based paste clings to teeth and holds fluoride close to tooth surface so the fluoride can penetrate it. Originally, this varnish grew yellowish when it dried, so patients left the dentist with teeth that were discolored until they brushed off the varnish. Newer varnishes don’t have this drawback, however. They dry the same color as your teeth, and they even come in flavors.

Custom Fluoride Trays

If your dentist prescribes a fluoride tray treatment, you’ll receive a custom tray that looks similar to a bleaching tray or a whitening tray. The tray will cover your teeth completely to gum line. In the tray you’ll place some concentrated fluoride gel. You’ll keep it in your mouth for several minutes each day as part of a remineralizing regiment.

MI Paste

Instead of a fluoride gel, your dentist might provide you with Mineral Intervention (MI) paste. MI paste binds calcium and phosphates to the tooth surface and releases calcium and phosphate ions into tooth enamel, making it stronger. MI paste can be worn in custom trays like fluoride gel, but you can also brush it on like with toothpaste.

Preventative Treatment Gels

Similar to MI paste, preventative treatment gels, such as Colgate® Gel-Kam, are available over the counter to fight precavities. They’re applied the same way as toothpaste. Unlike toothpaste, however, they aren’t formulated to fight bacteria, plaque, and gingivitis. Their sole purpose is to remineralize teeth, so you’ll use this gel conjunction with regular toothpaste.

If you’ve found precavities in your mouth, contact your dentist to schedule an appointment. If the precavities worsen, they will become full-blown cavities, and additional treatment will be required. Treating precavities costs much less than treating cavities, so take action while you can.

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