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To get to the bottom of cavities

Why they form and how dental fillings restore them

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

cavityWhat 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.

  1. 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 and it thrives on the sugars we consume. 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 much more difficult to remove
  2. Hardened plaque contains acids that can damage the enamel of our teeth 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
  3. 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.

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How are cavities filled?

To fill a cavity, Dr Lowry will:

  1. remove the decayed tooth material
  2. clean the affected area
  3. fill or cover the tooth

cavity_repairAmalgam and gold are the traditional go-to materials for dental fillings.

  • While gold is strong, stable and offers a precise fit, it can be costly to place.
  • Amalgam, while strong and durable, is the least aesthetically pleasing dental filling material. Due to the poor aesthetics this material is reserved for locations where white filling materials would likely not hold up.

These days, white dental fillings have gained in popularity.

  • Composite resin is made up of a mixture of plastic and glass and can be matched to the colour of your natural teeth.
  • Porcelain inlays and onlays offer durability and good looks. Inlays are used to fill cavities on the chewing surface of your teeth, while onlays are used to restore decayed cusps.

If the cavity is very large, Dr Lowry may recommend restoring it with a dental crown.

Catch them early

The sooner you treat a cavity better. When a cavity first forms it is often painless – you might not even be aware of it. That’s why it’s so important to schedule regular dental exams.

Like other dentists, Chestermere dentist Dr Lowry 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.

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