What causes a cavity?
Worried that you have cavities? You are not alone. Unfortunately, 75-90% of adults have cavities in their permanent teeth. Cavities (or caries) are a breakdown of teeth caused by acids from bacteria in our mouth. Although cavities all have a bacterial origin, refined sugar and acid make bacteria more active. Cavities can run rampant in mouths especially when a medication causes low saliva flow or dry mouth. When left untreated, cavities can cause teeth to break, become infected or cause a great deal of pain.
Depending on the amount of destruction, many cavities when caught early can be fixed with a dental filling. Although there are several materials available to restore these holes, our office typically chooses tooth color restorative material like composite resin or porcelain.
Our goal is to help you manage these cavity-causing bacteria, as well as help, restore the holes that the cavities create in teeth. We will discuss potential factors influencing your cavities (diet, brushing/flossing habits, dry mouth-causing medication, hormonal factors, immune system function). After, we help explore options to manage these factors.
Together, we will find a path to restore your mouth to optimal function and help you to maintain it.
What are composite fillings?
At Broadway Family Dentistry we use composite resin for filling teeth. Composite resin is a mix of plastic and glass and blends in when placed in a tooth. This is a dramatic improvement over old silver amalgam fillings that were the standard up until just a few years ago.
What are the advantages of using tooth-colored composite fillings over silver fillings?
Silver amalgam has been the filling material of choice since the 1800s. It is made with a variety of metals, including traces of mercury. Amalgam is made of metal, it expands and contracts with hot and cold, and this can lead to subtle tooth fractures over time. This eventually will require replacing the filling. It also can create space around the filling where new decay/cavity can form.
In contrast, composite fillings can actually bond to the tooth surface. Plus, when placing an amalgam filling, more of the healthy tooth structure needs to be removed to create room for the filling. Because of composite resin bonds to the tooth, it is not necessary to remove the same amount of healthy tooth material. Finally, composite fillings match the color of the patient’s natural tooth better, so they are camouflaged when placed in a tooth.
How are dental fillings placed?
When we find decay/cavity in a tooth, the decayed portion of the tooth needs to be removed and “filled” with composite resin, hence the name filling. At Broadway Family Dentistry, we can use:
- Lasers for removing decay whenever possible, as the patient doesn’t need any local anesthesia. However, lasers can only be used for small amounts of decay.
- Larger decayed/cavity areas are drilled out.
- The area is then thoroughly cleaned and disinfected.
- The final step is to place the composite resin. This is done layer by layer. Every layer is hardened with the use of a “curing” light, and then the next layer is applied. The resin is shaped to conform to the natural shape of the tooth.
- When the composite application is complete and hardened, the tooth is polished and the patient has a nice tooth-colored restoration.
What happens if I leave a cavity alone?
Some people are haphazard with the regular exams and cleanings, and this can allow a cavity to grow and eventually enter the interior of the tooth, the dentin. Once decay has entered the dentin the tooth is in danger. The infection will spread through the dentin and will begin to affect the nerves that run through the tooth roots. This will create serious pain in the tooth, and can eventually lead to a far greater infection that can spread into the gums. Once decay has spread to the nerves, the tooth will usually need a root canal to save it from needing to be extracted. Regular twice-yearly check-ups with the dentist will help spot decay earlier to prevent pain and tooth loss.