If you have never had a cavity, you may be clueless as to how the dentist actually treats this problem. By understanding exactly what a cavity is and how your dentist is going to resolve the issue, you can be prepared for the experience. Here is the information that you need to know so you know exactly what to expect if during your next dental office visit a cavity is found.
A tooth is made up of many layers. Enamel is the outermost layer of your teeth. Enamel is the hardest substance in the body. Under the gum line, a substance called cementum covers the roots of the tooth. Under the enamel and cementum you will find the dentin. The dentin is almost as hard as bone and contains nerve endings. Beneath the dentin you will find dental pulp. This vascular tissue is composed of capillaries, connective tissue, larger blood vessels, nerve fibers, and a few different types of cells. The pulp nourishes the tooth during its development and growth. Once the tooth is fully mature, the only function it has is to let people know if it is infected or damaged by transmitting pain.
Cavities are actually infection caused by bacteria that live in our mouths and foods containing carbohydrates. The bacteria is found in a film that forms on and around the teeth. This film is called plaque. Although there are a variety of different types of bacteria in the mouth, only a few have anything to do with cavities. When these bacteria come in contact with carbohydrates, they consume them and produce acid. The acid causes a drop in the pH balance on the surface of the teeth. Prior to eating, the pH level in the mouth is usually between six and seven. When Candy, ice cream, and soda are eaten the pH level tends to drop. If the pH level goes as low as 5.5, the acid will begin to dissolve the enamel that forms the tooth’s external coding.
Cavities tend to attack teeth in two ways. Pits and fissures are grooves that are visible on the biting surfaces of back teeth. The pits and fissures are thin areas of your enamel that have recesses. They trap food and plaque which helps form a cavity. Cavities start from a small point of attack and spreads. The second way acid attacks is on smooth services on the front or back of teeth. The acid must travel through all of the enamel.
Your dentist will try to detect cavities in your mouth a number of different ways. The most common ways are looking at your teeth and x-ray examinations. During the exam, the dentist uses an instrument called an Explorer to search the surface of the teeth for cavities. If the tool finds a weak and acid damaged part of the tooth, this signifies having a cavity. It is also possible to use visual examination techniques. Discolored teeth can indicate a cavity. Dental x-rays are very useful in finding cavities wedged between teeth or under the gum line. These cavities are almost impossible to inspect visually or with an Explorer. There are some cases where none of these methods are adequate where a dentist uses a special solution to diagnose a suspicious tooth area.
The majority of cavities that are found during a dental examination will need treatment. If the cavity has gotten through the enamel and is in the underlying dentin, it is undergone something called cavitation. This also requires treatment. If a cavity is caught early and has not spread to the dentin, they can often be healed with fluoride. On the other hand, if a tooth is beyond any kind of repair, cosmetic dentistry offers many options to cover up the hole left open.
Treating cavities involves two basic principles. It is important to remove the decayed portion of the tooth and rebuild the tooth structure with a filling material. The procedure usually starts with the injection of a local anesthetic. The tooth is isolated and a high-speed drill is used to remove the decay and prepare the tooth for filling. Depending on what material is used for filling, the dentist will change the preparation accordingly. Once the tooth is prepared, a liner is used to help reduce tooth sensitivity.
After having a cavity filled, it is normal for the tooth to be a bit sensitive for couple days. The deeper the filling, the more likely you may have some prolonged sensitivity, specifically to cold food and drinks. Within a couple weeks most fillings should be completely comfortable. If the filling is built up too high, a second appointment will be needed to shave down the filling to a more comfortable level. If the sensitivity lasts for more than a couple weeks, this often indicates that there is a void under the filling. It can also indicate infected pulp which will require a root canal.
Depending on the situation, a good dentist treats a cavity in a few different ways. By knowing the different parts of the tooth, how cavities form, why they form, and how the dentist looks for them, you should start to get an idea of how they are treated.