Your Guide to How Dentists Fix Cavities
Did you know that your teeth are the hardest substance in your body? According to Mohs Hardness Scale, tooth enamel sits at a five - which can be almost harder than steel! Our teeth can withstand about 5600 pounds of pressure per square inch with that amount of strength.
However, dentists can attest to how easy it can be to weaken our teeth over time, depending on how you care for them.
Check out this guide for all you need to know about cavities and how dentists treat them!
What are Cavities?
A common concern when someone visits their dental clinic is whether they have developed cavities or not. However, what exactly are cavities? Cavities are tiny openings or holes that permanently damage the hard surface of your teeth.
How your teeth become susceptible to cavities stems from various factors that include:
- the bacteria of your mouth
- not brushing and flossing your teeth properly
- less saliva production from dehydration
- too much alcohol
- diets high in sugar and starches
It is no surprise that people can end up with at least one or two cavities at some point. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), among adults aged 20 and older, about 90% have had at least one cavity. Furthermore, in children aged 6 to 8 years, over half (52%) have had a cavity in their primary (baby) teeth. Now that's a lot of cavities!
What Are the Signs of Cavities?
Most people are not immune to not getting cavities - that much is apparent. Yet, knowing if you have any can be tricky until the signs become more obvious in time or a visit to the dentist.
Cavities normally make themselves known through:
- a bad toothache
- tooth sensitivity
- staining on any surface of your tooth
- visible pits or holes in your teeth
- pain when biting down
These are clear indicators that bacteria and decay have already eaten away your enamel, leaving irreversible damage that won't stop until it's treated.
What Happens to Untreated Cavities?
How important is it to treat cavities? With how common cavities are, you might be wondering whether it warrants urgent treatment or not. Beyond making it painful to eat or drink, cavities can affect your oral health and your overall health. Many might assume that cavities only affect your teeth by leading to potential tooth decay and gum disease, but oral health is connected to other areas of our body and affects them.
According to the American Heart Foundation, the same bacteria found in dental plaque can make their way into the heart, blocking blood flow. As a result, this leaves folks with untreated cavities at risk for heart disease, a stroke, and even a heart attack. Additionally, it can increase the possibility of brain infections.
How Can Cavities Be Treated?
Thankfully, there are various methods to choose from when treating cavities. All of them vary based on how severe your cavities have become.
Here are a few treatments that dentists do to fix cavities:
For those who have a cavity forming, it's recommended to start with having fluoride treatment. Fluoride is known to help restore your tooth's enamel and is a good treatment option if your cavity is in the early stage. You can go above and beyond with this treatment by receiving professional fluoride treatment from your dentist. You can expect this treatment to come in the form of a liquid, gel, foam or varnish that you brush your teeth with or a form-fitting mouth tray over your teeth.
Alternatively known as restoration, fillings are a common option after fluoride treatment isn't enough. During a filling, a dentist removes decayed tooth tissue and uses certain materials to fill the space. It's more noticeable for treatment as you can fill the space with either porcelain, tooth-coloured composite resins, or dental amalgam that combines a few other materials.
A filling isn't enough if the cavities in your teeth have weakened your teeth to the point of extensive decay. If your teeth are barely there, going in to get a crown would be best for you. A crown procedure will help cover your decayed natural crown by replacing it with a new one. Once the dentist gets rid of the decay, they can replace your crown with gold, porcelain, resin, porcelain-fused metal or other materials.
Tooth decay can get bad enough to reach your tooth pulp, which comprises connective tissue, blood vessels, and cells. This stage is where the serious health problem can set in if left untreated. A root canal can help repair it by draining out the infection from the decay. Depending on the severity, your dentist might be ill-equipped to handle this procedure and will need to refer you to an endodontist since it's their area of expertise.
If there is no salvaging your tooth from extreme decay, the last option you can take is to remove your tooth completely. There is a reason why it's the last resort treatment - pulling your teeth can leave a gap that can cause your other teeth to shift. Once removed, dentists can suggest that you get a bridge or dental implants to replace the missing tooth.
Cavities are a common but serious oral condition to treat. That's why all dentists stress the importance of prevention to help avoid any serious health issues from developing due to poor oral health. So, keep cavities at bay or be aware that you have various options to help treat them at any stage!