Cavities are areas on the teeth that have suffered permanent damage and formed tiny holes that grow larger over time. Also referred to as tooth decay, cavities are often caused by a variety of factors, such as inadequate oral hygiene, bacteria in the mouth, sipping sugary drinks, and frequent snacking.
If you have a cavity, know that you’re not alone. Nearly 57 percent of adolescents between the ages of 12 and 19 have had a cavity in their permanent teeth, according to data published by the CDC. Approximately 90 percent of adults age 20 or older have had one or more cavities.
When a cavity is caught early on during a routine dental teeth cleaning and exam, it can often be treated quickly and inexpensively. Your Melbourne FL dentist will likely recommend a filling to remove the decay and restore the tooth. However, larger cavities may require more extensive treatment. Learn what to expect when you have a cavity.
Common Symptoms of a Cavity
You may not even know that you have a cavity until you visit your dentist for a checkup. Until the cavity becomes large enough to significantly impact the tooth structure, symptoms are often minimal and may go unnoticed. However, as the decay gets larger, you may experience one or more of the following symptoms:
- Pain when you bite down
- Tooth sensitivity
- Pain when eating something hot, cold, or sweet
- Visible holes or pits in the teeth
- Black, brown, or white staining on the surface of the tooth
Diagnosing and Treating
Your dentist will likely make a diagnosis based on your symptoms, a physical examination of the affected tooth, and X-ray images that show the inside of the teeth. On X-ray images, cavities appear as areas that are darker than tooth enamel.
If your dentist finds that you need a filling, you can choose between several types of filling materials. The most common types of materials used in tooth fillings include:
- Amalgam Fillings – Also called “silver” filling, these are strong and suitable for the back teeth when the bulk of chewing takes place.
- Composite Fillings – Fairly durable and can withstand moderate chewing. They are designed to match the tooth’s natural color and are therefore commonly used on the front teeth.
- Alternative Metals – While not as common as amalgam or composite fillings, alternative metals like gold can be used to fill teeth.
- Ceramic Fillings – These are generally made of porcelain and is tooth-colored to look natural in the mouth. While fairly durable, ceramic fillings are more susceptible to staining and are often as expensive as gold fillings.
- Glass Ionomer Fillings – These use a blend of glass and acrylic to fill a cavity. This type of filling releases fluoride to protect the teeth. However, they are less durable than other options and may need to be replaced in as little as 5 years.
Once a filling material is chosen, your tooth will be numbed and the surrounding area to ensure that the procedure is virtually painless. Next, decay will be removed from the tooth before the filling replacement is placed in the damaged area. It is normal to experience some discomfort after a filling. It should subside within a couple of days.
Schedule a Visit with Artistic Touch Dentistry
Tooth fillings can last many years before they need to be replaced. However, your fillings may need to be replaced sooner if you clench or grind your teeth. For more information about cavities, or to schedule a professional exam, contact the friendly dental team at Artistic Touch Dentistry.