Tooth Decay (Cavities) – Signs, Treatment, Fillings And Prevention

Tooth Decay (Cavities) – Signs, Treatment, Fillings And Prevention

What Is Tooth Decay?

Tooth decay, or a hole (cavity) in your tooth, is caused by the bacteria in your mouth and a high-sugar diet. Foods containing sugar produce acids in the mouth, which eat away at teeth, causing decay. A cavity requires a filling if the pollution goes through the enamel (the outside layer of the tooth) to the dentine, which is the soft layer of the tooth under the enamel. If left untreated, a cavity will get bigger over time and cause pain as it gets closer to the nerve in the middle of the tooth. Holes are most likely to occur between the teeth, on the biting surface, and near the gums.

What Are The Signs Of Tooth Decay?

Seeing or feeling a cavity can be challenging until it is pretty significant. It usually grows below the surface through a small hole in the enamel before becoming an obvious hole you can feel. You may notice part of a tooth that looks grayish; this would be decay that you can see through a layer of enamel. Regular check-ups with a dentist will identify any tooth decay at an early stage.

How Is Tooth Decay Treated?

If you have a cavity in a tooth, the decay will need to remove and filled with a filling. You will be given a local anesthetic for large fillings so you don’t feel any pain. A packing involves a dentist removing the decay using a drill and filling it with either composite resin (white filling) or amalgam (silver filling). The dentist will then file the filler down to ensure it is the correct size and smooth and comfortable against your tongue.

What Problems Can Occur After Having A Filling?

If the decay in your tooth is intense, you may experience sensitivity after the filling. Often this sensitivity goes away after some time (this can sometimes take weeks), but if it is chronic or severe, you may need to have a root canal.   While your dentist has taken every care to ensure your filling is the right size, sometimes you may realize that your bite feels high once the local anesthetic has worn off. If you feel like you are biting down on the filling first or your bite feels uneven, return to your dentist to have the filling filed down to the right size. Not having your bite corrected can result in pain or breaking the filling.

How Can I Prevent Tooth Decay?

After you eat anything, the acids in your mouth attack your teeth for half an hour before they neutralize. Reducing the number of times you snack throughout the day lessens the time your teeth are exposed to these harmful acids and thus prevents tooth decay. Foods containing carbohydrates or sugar are best avoided as snacks and should be limited to meals only. Fruit juices are very acidic and should be avoided; orange juice is almost as sour as stomach acid.

Where you live also depends on the water’s quality and whether it contains fluoride. Fluoride toothpaste is essential for people who don’t get it from the water they drink.

Having enough saliva in your mouth is essential in helping prevent tooth decay. A dry mouth (xerostomia) can commonly cause decay, so it is necessary to treat xerostomia if you are a sufferer.

Children who have recently grown new molars can get fissure seals to protect their teeth. As the bristles of a toothbrush cannot always get into the fissures (pits) to clean them, decay can occur. A fissure seal is a protective coating placed in the cracks on the biting surface of their teeth to prevent cavities. It is a simple, pain-free procedure that does not harm the teeth.

Of course, the best way to avoid tooth decay is by brushing your teeth every morning and night and flossing once daily. Visiting your dentist every six months is essential to get your teeth cleaned and to check if you have developed any cavities. A dentist will take x-rays every two years to look for decay underneath fillings and between the teeth that can’t be seen with a visual examination.

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