Yikes! Your dentist noticed decay in some of your teeth during your last appointment. But the cavities were small so now you’re wondering, do you really need to get them filled? The answer is a definite yes.
Since cavities don’t go away on their own, failing to fill even the smallest cavity only leads to larger decay. Ignoring a cavity, no matter how small, can lead to infection, meaning you may need a root canal in the future. Below, we explain what cavities do to your teeth, and why it’s so important to get them filled as soon as possible.
What Causes Cavities?
Failing to maintain good brushing and flossing habits leads to plaque and tartar buildup. The bacteria in plaque and tartar release acids that eat away at your tooth enamel, resulting in cavities. This decay can cause tiny holes in the tooth enamel, or much larger cavities that allow bacteria to reach deep within the tooth.
Without treatment, cavities only become bigger and deeper over time, exposing the sensitive interior parts of your tooth to infection and decay. Cavities and tooth decay are directly caused by acid dissolving the tooth structure. This acid can come directly from the foods we eat or what we drink, like citrus fruits, spicy foods, coffee, and alcohol.
In addition to eating and drinking acidic things, consuming sugar also feeds the bacteria in our mouths. The bacteria like the pasta, candies, and sodas that you eat just as much as you. Their byproduct after eating these things is lactic acid, which weakens and dissolves tooth structure until it is removed. Eating and drinking foods and beverages that are both acidic and sugary is double trouble, like sour candy or soda.
How Are Cavities Treated?
Our first line of defense is prevention! Attempting to limit the negative effects of acid on your teeth is done with fluoride, a naturally occurring mineral. There is no known functional substitute for fluoride. It is able to neutralize the acids and restore strength back to the tooth. We see a distinct difference in our patients who use fluoride continuously and those who, for whatever reasons, do not.
When prevention is not enough to fight decay, most cavities can be treated with fillings. Getting a dental filling is a simple procedure that involves numbing the area, clearing out the decay, and filling the cavity with a composite resin material.
At Copper Creek Dental, we never use silver amalgam fillings. Composite resin is a safe, biocompatible material that is tinted to match the color of your tooth, and shaped to create a functional and comfortable biting surface.
If a cavity is particularly deep, and removing the decay would severely weaken the tooth, a crown can be used instead. A dental crown is a custom-made, natural-looking cover that fits over the tooth to restore its function. Crowns are made from biocompatible materials such as porcelain or zirconia.
Why Do Small Cavities Need to Be Filled?
Once tooth decay breaks through the enamel, the damage cannot be reversed. This is why cavities of all sizes must be filled, even small ones. The smaller the cavity that gets filled, the larger the portion of the natural tooth that can be preserved. So if your dentist spots a cavity, it’s best to have it filled sooner rather than later to prevent the cavity from growing in size.
If you notice any signs of a cavity, call our office so we can fill it before it grows larger. Symptoms of cavities include:
- Pain when biting or chewing
- Sensitivity to hot or cold temperatures
- Brown, black, or white stains
- Visible holes in the teeth
How Does Filling a Cavity Prevent a Root Canal?
Eventually, a cavity will expose the pulp inside the tooth, and the area where its extremely sensitive nerve tissue sits. Filling a cavity as soon as possible stops it from growing and protects the pulp, preventing the need for a root canal down the road.
But without a filling, the cavity will grow deeper and deeper until the pulp becomes infected by the bacteria from plaque and tartar. This causes severe pain and usually leads to an abscess. When the decay reaches this point, a root canal is necessary to save the tooth.
A root canal can save your tooth, but it’s a much more invasive procedure. The infected pulp deep inside the tooth has to be removed. Then the root canal is cleaned and filled with a biocompatible material to seal out further decay. Finally, a crown is placed to protect and restore the tooth.
Treating Cavities in South Jordan, Utah
At Copper Creek Dental, our advanced technology allows us to reduce the amount of time our patients need to spend in the dentist’s chair. We treat cavities with long-lasting, biocompatible fillings or CEREC crowns that will prevent the need for invasive root canal therapy and more time in the chair.
If you suspect you have a cavity, or you’re overdue for a dental exam, please don’t hesitate to contact our office. Call us at 801-280-1911 today to schedule an appointment.