Cavities are, unfortunately, a very common problem. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, at least nine out of 10 American adults have cavities (filled or otherwise), and nearly a quarter of the adult population in this country have untreated tooth decay.
It’s safe to say that everyone knows that the answer to a cavity is a filling. They know this this involves drilling and the use of a metal or composite material. But maybe the reason why there are so many untreated cavities out there is because they don’t know exactly how we treat cavities.
So, let’s take a closer look.
Here’s the Procedure for Treating Cavities
As soon as we determine that prevention alone is not going to stop the advancing decay, we start to consider the restorative procedures.
First, we have to determine how far the cavity has progressed. As long as it hasn’t reached the pulp, you’re still a candidate for a filling. If it has reached the pulp, then we’re looking at a slightly more involved procedure (root canals).
Next, we will numb the area around the tooth to minimize any discomfort.
After that, we can start to clean away the decayed enamel with the appropriate tool. This is most commonly a high-speed rotary drill. However, we understand that this is one of the instruments that really put people off and keep them from getting the treatments they need, but there are other tools available these days, and they might be an option in your case.
We may also find it necessary to use a slower drill to remove some of the damaged dentin.
Once we’ve removed all of the decayed portion of the tooth, we can start making a hole in your tooth that has a specific shape to hold the filling material more securely. This will provide more durability and strength once you start chewing on that tooth again.
If the cavity is large enough, we may need to use a lining material, as well. This is to prevent tooth sensitivity and seal it against any leakage. It can also help the filling material adhere to the tooth better.
Since we use tooth-colored composite fillings, we will need to etch the interior of the prepared tooth to create an even more adhesive surface for the material.
Of course, all of this assumes that most of the tooth structure is still intact. If it has lost too much of its structure, then we go beyond fillings and consider using crowns to strengthen and reshape your teeth.
Different Methods for Different Cavities
Depending on the exact location of the cavity, we may approach it differently.
Surface cavities that occur on the flat exterior of the tooth, for example, are easier to treat and may not even require a filling. As long as they haven’t broken through to the dentin, special fluoride treatments may be all you need.
Cavities may also appear on the roots of your teeth, if they’ve been exposed because of receding gums. In this case, we need to act fast, because the root doesn’t have a protective enamel layer, so it will be much easier for the decay to reach the pulp.
The most common cavities, pit and fissure cavities, occur on the chewing surfaces of your teeth where it’s easy for food to get stuck and plaque to build up.
A Note on Fillings for Children
Baby teeth are not permanent, so many parents wonder if it’s really worth it to get fillings if they’re just going to lose the teeth anyway.
Aside from the pain this could cause the child, there are some important reasons to take care of cavities in children. The most important being that the primary teeth are meant to help the permanent teeth come in properly, so it’s really important that your child’s teeth survive until they can do their job.
Sometimes, dentists may recommend using metal fillings for children because it’s cheaper and, again, they’re just going to lose those teeth anyway.
At LêDowns Dentistry, though, we haven’t used metal fillings in more than 15 years, and don’t intend to start now. We do not believe in putting something that is potentially harmful in your child’s mouth.
Cavities in children is a very common problem, despite all the warnings. So don’t put this off just because they’ll going to lose those teeth.
Nothing Beats Prevention
The moral of this story is that the best way to deal with cavities is to prevent them in the first place. The second best is to treat them before they break through the enamel and reach the dentin ( this is the best chance to treat the problem without breaking out the drill).
Make sure you’re coming in for your regular treatments so we can catch them in time and treat the cavities before they become a real problem.