Ice creamsnow coness’mores…summer is filled with all sorts of delicious sweet treats to tempt your taste buds! But you have to be careful not to eat too many sweets or your teeth could end up with a hole in them. What are we talking about? Cavities!

Do you dread going to the dentist’s office? It’s OK. Many kids do. But the dentist’s office doesn’t have to be a place of fear! If you take care of your teeth properly, a trip to the dentist’s office can be as harmless as a routine check-up and cleaning.

Sometimes, though, dentists find holes in our teeth. Dentists call these holes dental caries. Most people just call them cavities.

Cavities form when our teeth decay or break down. This happens when plaque — a substance made up of germs that cause tooth decay — sticks to our teeth. If we don’t brush away all the plaque, the bacteria can create acids that eat away at the enamel that covers our teeth.

If they’re not fixed, cavities can grow bigger and deeper. If the cavity gets deep enough to reach the inside part of your tooth where the nerves are, you will likely experience a bad toothache that can be extremely painful.

Sometimes dentists can see cavities when they examine your teeth. Cavities aren’t always so easy to spot, though. Some cavities can only be seen if your dentist takes an x-ray of your mouth.

If you have a cavity, the dentist will usually fix it with a filling. First, the dentist has to remove the decayed part of your tooth. This is usually done with a special drill. Afterward, the dentist will fill in the hole with a special material that will make your tooth whole again.

Having a cavity filled can hurt a little, but dentists will usually give you an anesthetic to numb the pain. So don’t worry about a little pain from having a cavity filled. Any pain will be minor compared to how much your tooth will hurt if it doesn’t get fixed!

24 Join the Discussion

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    • Hi there, Rithik! Thanks for being the very first Wonder Friend to visit today’s Wonder of the Day® about cavities and leave us a comment! We appreciate your enthusiasm! :-)

  1. I was WONDERing if your gums can get germs.
    I brush to get the germs off my teeth. I just went to the dentist and the doctor told me I am doing a good job brushing. I should brush after dinner every night.

    • We’re super proud to hear that you are doing a good job of brushing, Helena! That’s AWESOME! We think germs like to hide near your gums, too, so it sounds like you are doing the right thing by brushing your teeth to remove the germs! :-)

    • Thanks for sharing your (your brother’s) personal experience with the topic of today’s Wonder, Julie! We’re so happy to hear that you liked learning about cavities with us today! :-)

  2. I, too, once had cavity in my tooth, 1 year ago I had a hole in my tooth, in the middle. Then came the, WORST! :-P The dentist drilled in my mouth, my tooth was vibrating, UNTIL! :-( There was a hole, but the doc put clay in it to cover it, it tasted
    bad but it was better, THE END! :-) :-D

    • It’s GREAT to hear from you today, Carlos! Thank you for sharing what it was like to have a cavity filled at the dentist’s office! We’re glad your tooth is better now! :-)

    • We’re super sorry to hear that about your tooth, Sophie! :-( We know MANY Wonder Friends who have had cavities (including some of us here in Wonderopolis)! Thank you for sharing your personal connection to this Wonder of the Day® with us! :-)

    • We think there are some ways the dentist might be able to clean your teeth and gums to get rid of bacteria and help them heal before the bacteria destroys the teeth and they have to be removed, Zion! That’s why it’s SUPER important to brush after meals and floss every day…and see your dentist for regular check-ups! :-)

    • WOHOO, way to have a great check up at the dentist, Wonder Friend M! It sounds like you have a clean bill of health at the dentist’s office– no cavities for you! Nice work! :)

    • We think as long as you are visiting your dentist, flossing and brushing every day, you and your teeth are in good shape, Tyler! :)

    • We hope you’re feeling better, Chlo Chlo! We’re sorry to hear that you had a cavity, but it sounds like you’re doing okay now! :)

    • Hi there, Mason, thanks for sharing your comment! The only way to be certain is to visit your dentist. Describe what you feel and see, and your doctor can help you. Dentists have special tools to help them see even the tiniest things on our teeth! :)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • What is a cavity?
  • What is a filling?
  • How can you prevent cavities?

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Try It Out

Don’t want any cavities? Here are some tips you can follow to make sure that your teeth stay as healthy as they can be:

  • Brush your teeth often! Make sure you use toothpaste with fluoride and try to brush your teeth after every meal or about three times each day, especially before bedtime!
  • Brush thoroughly — that means brushing up and down and in a circle around each tooth to make sure you get the front, back and sides of every tooth.
  • As you brush your teeth, brush your gums, too. Your gums need to stay healthy, too, so make sure you brush them when you brush your teeth.
  • Use floss to remove plaque and food that gets stuck between your teeth. Flossing after every meal is great, but make sure you do it at least once each day.
  • Stay away from too much sugar, such as candy and soft drinks. Eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables instead!
  • Don’t forget to visit your dentist at least twice each year for regular check-ups. Hopefully, you won’t have any cavities, but if you do, your dentist can catch them and fix them as soon as possible.

Still Wondering

Check out National Geographic Education’s Big Cats, Big Teeth activity to compare the shape and size of human, lion and gazelle teeth and jaws.

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