Cavity treatment. What to expect at the dentist.
What is a cavity?
So, you have a cavity? I don’t know about the rest of you but, when I first found out that I had a cavity, I had no idea what it was. Granted, I was pretty young at the time. Okay, so it’s more than just “an empty space in a solid object (in this case your tooth)” as you will find as the “regular” definition in the dictionary.
A cavity is essentially, a decayed part of your tooth. A lot of people have probably wondered why cavities are formed, myself included. What happens is pretty simple, actually. When you eat food or drink soda or other sweet drinks, some of that food or drink actually stays on your teeth. One of the purposes of saliva in the mouth is to wash away these food and drink particles from your mouth, but it (saliva) alone can’t get it all. Bacteria, which are in the mouth, start in on the food particles, and the process of them eating this food produces, inevitably, waste. The bacteria, waste, saliva, and food particles all form something called “dental plaque” which is the sticky, filmy substance that accumulates on your teeth 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The waste is an acid that eats up the tooth enamel. The eaten up and decayed part of the tooth is known as a cavity (or dental carries).
Given the fact that there is indeed a decayed part of your tooth, which not only will allow further decay, but the possibility for an infected root as well, which would lead to a root canal, the cavity itself needs to be filled. The way this is done is pretty simple. Those drills you see at the top are used to “clean the cavity out”, which simply means that all the decayed part of the tooth is removed to prevent further infection. Then a composite material is placed to seal off the cavity and hardened with an intense UV light. Some offices still use amalgam, or “silver” fillings. We use the composite solely here.
The bite is then checked to ensure that the filling is not too high and is comfortable in your mouth when you chew. They will use a piece of paper that will make the areas that are too high, stand out clearly by marking those areas with the color of the special paper. After that, they ensure those high areas are drilled down with the purpose of making your “bite” more comfortable.
The method of filling a cavity really has not changed that much over the years. It’s pretty much been, drill a cavity and fill it. So, in that regard, yeah, it hasn’t changed much. How they drill, what they drill with, and what material is used to fill the cavity has, however, changed and evolved. Now, with composite fillings, less actual tooth structure needs to be removed to fill a cavity. That makes it so that tooth has more stability as well. With an amalgam you do have to take more of the tooth structure out to make the space big enough for the amalgam filling.
For those concerned about pain…I feel you on that! You’re in luck though. Usually a quick injection of a local anesthetic is used around the tooth being worked on, which is usually completely sufficient to block the pain (if there was any of course) completely. The dentist will also usually check how you are doing throughout the procedure and ensure that your comfort needs are met sufficiently, even if that means pausing the procedure to apply another injection of local anesthetic. I know of a couple of patients that have gone through several fillings without the need of any anesthetic used. Anyhow, it’s a lot better than people had it 9,000 years ago.
Don’t wait too long to get a cavity filled.
The longer you wait, the more enamel is eaten away, the faster the bacteria descend towards the root of the tooth (because the bacteria is now past the hardest part of your tooth), and the more costly it will inevitably be to get the proper treatment. I like to compare teeth to cars sometimes. Only in the sense that if you are using your car, day in and day out, never replace the breaks, change the oil, fill the tires, repair the transmission etc. the more expensive it’s going to be to fix down the road, and the more likely it will render that car (tooth) unusable.
So, take care of the problem…before it’s a bigger problem.
Stay healthy my friends.