If you are like most people, you probably had a few cavities at some time in your life. Cavities are one of the most common dental problems in the United States. Cavities are caused by tooth decay, which is a result of plaque and bacteria build-up on your teeth. Left untreated, cavities can lead to more serious dental problems. In this article, we will discuss how dentists fix cavities.
Treatment Depends on the Cavity’s Severity
The first step in treating a cavity is determining how severe it is. This can be measured by how deep the cavity has reached and how wide the cavity is.
There are three layers to a tooth – the enamel, dentin, and pulp. The enamel is the outermost layer of the tooth and is made up of tightly packed minerals. The dentin lies beneath the enamel and is softer and more porous. Finally, the pulp lies at the center of the tooth and is made up of blood vessels and nerves of your tooth. If the cavity has only reached the enamel, then the cavity can actually be reversed! Once cavities reach the dentin, however, fillings or other treatments will be necessary. And if the cavity has reached the pulp, a root canal or other more invasive treatments could be necessary.
Similarly, the size of the cavity can also affect how it is treated. If the cavity is small, a filling may be all that is needed. For larger cavities, your dentist may recommend a crown or an inlay/onlay. This all depends on the structural integrity of the remaining tooth.
To determine how severe the cavity is and how best to treat it, your dentist will use a dental x-ray. This will help them see how deep the cavity has gone and how much of the tooth needs to be removed.
List of Procedures Dentists Use to Fix Cavities
In order of least invasive to most invasive, here are the common procedures dentists use to fix cavities:
Fluoride is a mineral that helps to strengthen tooth enamel and prevent cavities. If the cavity is small and has not yet reached the dentin, your dentist may recommend a fluoride treatment. This can reverse your cavity and restore your enamel. Fluoride treatments can be done in the dentist’s office or at home with special gels or mouth rinses. Typically, fluoride treatments at dental offices are more effective as they have a higher concentration of fluoride.
If the cavity has reached the dentin, your dentist will likely recommend a filling to restore the tooth back to its original shape and size. Your dentist will first drill out the decayed part of your tooth, then fill in the area with either synthetic resins (composite resins), amalgam, ceramic material or precious metal. Each of these materials has different advantages and disadvantages, including final filling cost, longevity and aesthetics.
If the cavity is large or if a filling does not provide enough protection for your tooth, then your dentist may recommend a crown, inlay, or onlay. A crown is an artificial cap that is shaped like your tooth and covers the entire visible portion of your tooth. An inlay or onlay is similar to a crown, but they do not cover the entire visible portion of the tooth. This helps to strengthen and protect the tooth from further damage. These can be made out of porcelain, metal alloys or a combination of the two.
If the cavity has reached the pulp, then a root canal may be necessary. During a root canal, your dentist will first remove the damaged and decayed parts of your tooth. Then, they will clean out the pulp chamber of your tooth and fill it with a special material. Finally, a crown will be placed over your tooth to protect it and restore its original shape and size. The root canal cost and crown cost make this option much more expensive than fillings or other less invasive treatments.
In some cases, a cavity may be too severe to be treated, and the tooth must be extracted. After the extraction, your dentist may recommend replacing the tooth with an implant or bridge.
The Longer You Wait, The Worse it Gets
When it comes to fixing a cavity, the longer you wait, the worse it will get. Ideally, you prevent the development of cavities altogether. This means practicing good oral hygiene. Make sure to:
- Brush twice a day: You should brush at least twice a day to remove plaque and bacteria. Make sure to brush near your gumline and the back of your teeth. These are the most commonly missed spots.
- Floss at least once a day (recommended twice): Flossing can help remove plaque and bacteria from areas that your toothbrush can’t reach. Floss in a C-shape motion around each tooth, going below the gumline.
- Use a soft-bristled toothbrush: A soft-bristled toothbrush will be less likely to damage your dentin and gums. Hard-bristled toothbrushes can lead to receding gums.
- Use gentle circular motions: Using gentle circular motions will help remove plaque without damaging your teeth.
- Don’t brush too hard: Brushing too hard can damage your dentin and gums. Try to use gentle pressure when brushing.
- Use fluoride toothpaste: Fluoride toothpaste can help protect your teeth from damage. It does this by strengthening your teeth and preventing cavities.
That is also why it is important to visit your dentist as soon as possible if you think you have a cavity. Your dentist can diagnose and treat your cavity before it worsens and causes more damage to your tooth.
Cavities can range in severity, and treatment will depend on how deep and wide they are. If caught early enough, cavities can even be reversed with fluoride treatments. However, if they have reached the dentin or pulp, then fillings, crowns, inlays/onlays and root canals may be necessary. In some cases, the tooth may need to be extracted and replaced with an implant or bridge. It is important to get regular dental checkups so that any issues can be caught early. This will help to prevent more invasive treatments and keep your teeth in good shape.
With the right care and attention, cavities can be easily fixed and prevented. So make sure to brush, floss and visit your dentist regularly!
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No two mouths are the same, and each oral situation is unique. As such, it isn’t possible to give comprehensive advice or diagnose oral conditions based on articles alone. The best way to ensure you’re getting the best dental care possible is to visit a dentist in person for an examination and consultation.