We Would Like To Get To The Bottom Of Cavities
Why they form and how dental fillings restore them
Dr. Westman: “Cavities are essentially holes in your teeth. They are permanent in the sense that they can’t heal themselves. Once formed, a cavity must be treated.”
If left in it’s own, painful symptoms can develop, such as:
- a toothache
- tooth sensitivity
- pain when eating or drinking something hot, cold or sweet
- pain when you bite down
What causes cavities?
Cavities occur when the hard outer surface of our teeth – the enamel – is worn away by plaque. It’s a process that progresses over time.
- It all begins with the bacteria that are naturally present in our mouths. Bacteria naturally adheres to the tooth surface on a daily basis. This layer of bacteria is called plaque. While plaque can be removed by tooth brushing and flossing, it’s often hard to reach every nook and cranny in our mouths. Plaque that remains on teeth hardens over time, becoming tartar, which requires professional cleanings to remove
- Plaque that is left on the teeth consumes the sugars we eat. Carbohydrates also break down into simple sugars and feed plaque. Acid is the by-product of plaque as it consumes sugar. Acid breaks down the tooth enamel by removing minerals and causing small fissures to form. This is the first stage of a cavity. Now that the protective coating of the outer tooth has been breached, the bacteria and acids can reach the inner portion – the dentin – which is softer and less resistant
- As tooth decay progresses, the bacteria and acids move toward the centre of your tooth – the soft pulp at the root which houses your tooth’s nerves and blood vessels. At this stage, painful symptoms will begin to present themselves. Your body may also begin to respond in order to fight the infection, resulting in an abscess.
How are cavities filled?
To fill a cavity, Dr Westman will:
- Remove the decay from the affected area. Then restore the tooth with composite resin filling material. Composite is made up of a mixture of plastic and glass and will be best matched to the color of your natural teeth.
- If the decay is extensive porcelain crowns, commonly known as caps, may be placed if the tooth will be best protected for years to come
Catch them early
The sooner you treat a cavity the better. When a cavity first forms it is painless – you probably won’t be aware of it. That’s why it’s so important to schedule regular dental exams.
Like other dentists, Dr. Westman is always on the lookout for signs of tooth decay. If a cavity is treated when it’s small, there is less dental drilling and cost is often lower. In terms of your oral health, the smaller your filling, the stronger your tooth generally will be. Large fillings can compromise the strength of your tooth.
If you suspect you may need a dental filling, please schedule a visit to our dental clinic in Racine.