Cavities and Dental Fillings
Serving Portland and Hawthorne
Cavities are the result of tooth decay, and many people are affected by this oral disease. Bacteria live in your mouth naturally, eating sugary or starchy foods, forming plaque, and excreting acids. These acids damage tooth enamel over time by dissolving (de-mineralizing) enamel, weakening the teeth and leading to tooth decay. Tooth decay is not life threatening and is highly preventable. If you have a cavity, you need a dental filling–as soon as possible!
Why Cavities Need Dental Fillings
When cavities form in your mouth, they are actively decaying. Tooth decay does not stop attacking the enamel of your tooth, and it will continue to eat through the hard outer layer of your tooth. A dental filling prevents the cavity from spreading and decaying the entire tooth. If a tooth decays beyond a certain point, it will need to be removed–a painful and costly procedure!
Progression of Cavities:
1. A white discoloration will first appear on the tooth enamel.
2. This spot continues to discolor, turning brown.
3. The cavity will grow in size, dissolving the structure and enamel of the tooth.
4. A sensitivity developed in the tooth or surrounding areas.
5. The affected area will turn black.
6. Once the tooth decay gets to the soft pulp of the tooth, it has exposed a nerve, causing significant pain and tenderness.
7. A root canal may be possible at this point.
8. If you let the tooth decay completely, you will develop a constant toothache. Your face might swell in the affected area, and you will experience tenderness around the whole area.
9. The affected tooth is dead or dying, and needs to be removed completely.
Because cavities can be difficult to detect in the early stages, a thorough dental examination every six months is very important. Don’t let cavities wait! By getting a dental filling at the first sign of tooth decay, you can prevent a root canal, or even complete tooth removal.
What to Expect From a Dental Filling Procedure
Getting a dental filling for a cavity is generally a very easy process. Once a cavity has been confirmed, your dental professional will:
- Numb the tooth, gums, and surrounding skin.
- Remove the decay by drilling and treating the tooth.
- Replace the empty space left by the removed decay with a dental filling.
The procedure typically takes around an hour, and your mouth may remain numb for a few hours after. You may have some remaining sensitivity or pain after the dental filling is placed, but that will subside in a couple of days.
Types of Fillings
- Amalgam: The least expensive option for a dental filling. Amalgam is a combination of different metals, and the material is generally visible when your mouth is open.
- Composite: Made of glass and plastic, composite fillings (also known as resin fillings) are tooth-colored. They may not last as long as amalgam fillings, but they are becoming more popular because of their ability to match the tooth’s color.
- Glass Ionomer: A blend of acrylic and glass that is designed to release fluoride to protect the tooth. It typically does not last as long as other filling-types.
- Metals: The two most common metal dental fillings are gold and silver. Gold can cost up to ten times more than silver, but many people prefer the look of gold. Metal fillings can last 10-15 years.
- Ceramic: Usually made of porcelain, ceramic dental fillings are tooth-colored and resist stains more than composites. Ceramic fillings can cost as much as gold fillings.
Preventing Cavities and Dental Fillings
The best way to prevent dental fillings is to prevent tooth decay. Cut down on sweets and between-meal snacks. Remember, sugary and starchy foods put your teeth at risk! Brush after every meal and floss daily. Cavities most often begin in hard-to-clean areas between the teeth and in the fissures and pits on the biting surfaces of the teeth. Hold the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle and brush inside, outside, on top of, and in between your teeth. Replace your toothbrush every few months. Only buy toothpastes and rinses that contain fluoride, a re-mineralization additive that supports the enamel on your teeth and reduces the risk of cavities. By taking these simple steps, you may not need dental fillings at all!
Heritage Dental has been committed to quality dental care for over 40 years. If you’re looking for high-quality dental fillings, give us a call – or stop by our SE Hawthorne Dental Clinic to schedule your exam today!