Understanding Cavities and the Process of Tooth Decay
Cavities are damaged or decayed areas to the hard surfaces of your teeth that result in small openings or holes. Cavities are also known as tooth decay or dental caries and are caused by a variety of factors including oral bacteria and improper brushing, as well as frequent consumption of candy and sweetened drinks.
Cavities and tooth decay are among the most common health issues worldwide and are especially common in children, teenagers and older adults.
If cavities go untreated, they can get larger and begin to affect the deeper layers of the tooth and may eventually lead to severe toothache, infection and ultimately, tooth loss. Regular dental visits and good brushing and flossing habits go a long way toward preventing cavities and tooth decay.
Treatment for cavities depends on the severity of your particular dental health condition, however, options can include Fluoride Treatments, Fillings, Crowns, Root Canals and Extraction.
The most common treatment option for cavities and tooth decay is a dental filling.
What is a Dental Filling?
Dental Fillings, sometimes called dental restorations, are the most common treatment option when tooth decay has progressed beyond the earliest stage of enamel erosion.
Your dentist will use a drill to remove the decayed portion of your tooth, leaving a gap or hole. The next step is to “fill” the gap with the appropriate filling compound in an effort to restore the shape, functionality and structural integrity of the missing tooth material.
Types of Dental Fillings
Believe it or not, all tooth fillings are not created equal and depending on what your dental health situation is, you may have several options of dental fillings to consider. Each type of dental filling has different advantages and disadvantage and your Den-Care Smile Center dentist will discuss the treatment options that are best for you.
Let’s take a look at the four major categories of tooth fillings, and some of
the pros and cons of each:
Gold tooth fillings are an excellent, if expensive choice. The advantages of choosing gold as a filling material are that it is extremely durable and strong; chewing shouldn’t bother them in the least, and you can expect them to last 15 years or more. However, most people tend to dislike the aesthetics of colored fillings, and the expense can be considerable as well – up to 10x more than silver tooth fillings.
Silver Amalgam Fillings
Perhaps the most popular of all types of dental fillings, silver amalgam is durable and relatively cost-effective. Ten to fifteen years of wear are not uncommon. However, more of the structure of the base tooth must be destroyed in order to accommodate the amalgam, which can possibly contribute to cracks and fractures down the line.
The types of dental fillings which match the color of your natural teeth are referred to as composite fillings. They actually chemically bond to the structure of your tooth, providing strength and support in a way metal tooth fillings do not, and most people prefer the look of the composite fillings over other types. However, they do not last as long; 5-10 years is a good guideline, and they can cost twice as much as silver amalgam fillings.
Other Types of Dental Fillings
Although not commonly used, there are other types of dental fillings, such as ceramics, glass ionomers, and temporary fillings. Ceramics have the strength and durability (as well as the cost) of gold, glass ionomer is most often used for filling below the gum line or in children’s fillings, and temporary fillings can be used to keep your teeth safe in between filling appointments, after a root canal procedure, or in emergency dentistry.
If you find yourself in need of a dental filling, one of our general dentists will discuss all the available options with you and help you make the right choice for both your dental health needs and your budget. We have experience with all types of dental fillings; from durable metal fillings, to attractive composite fillings and everything in between, we have you covered.