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Cavity Treatment

Our teeth are made up of the strongest material in the human body – enamel. Enamel is mostly comprised of a mineral called Calcium Phosphate and it is incredibly durable. As damage resistant as enamel is, however, we put our teeth to the test everyday with frequent grinding, pressure, friction and chewing motions. Enamel is most vulnerable to bacteria that can linger in the crevices of our teeth after we consume food or drinks. If it’s not removed, bacteria become plaque and plaque produces a secretion of acid, which can eat through enamel, leaving small holes called cavities. 

Dentists are able to treat cavities with safe, fast and effective procedures called dental fillings. Fillings are used to repair cracks, holes and decay in the mouth. Though cavities are preventable, they are common and most easily treated when caught early before the hole has become too large or has become infected. 

If you suspect you may have a cavity, call Castle Dental today or click below to find a location near you. Our team will be happy to help restore your oral health and return your confident smile.

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What causes cavities?

Even with great oral hygiene and good routine care, cavities can develop as a result of any number of factors, from the foods and beverages you consume to genetics. Some of the most common causes of cavities include:

Sugar

Sugar is one of the most common culprits for causing cavities. Bacteria that naturally exists is the mouth feeds on the sugars left behind from the foods and drinks we consume. The more sugar present, the quicker the bacteria consumes it, resulting in an excess secretion of acid. Eventually, this bacteria, sugar and acid become a sticky substance called plaque. Without daily brushing and routine professional cleanings, plaque can not only lead to cavities but it can also harden into a substance called tartar, which greatly increases the likelihood of cavities and tooth decay. 

Age

Age can have a significant impact on your chances of getting a cavity. For example, babies who are put to bed after a bottle have an increased chance of forming a cavity. Younger children are also vulnerable as they have yet to establish a healthy hygiene routine and they often prefer foods and drinks with higher sugar contents. Older people, too, are at an increased risk because as we age, our gums start to recede, leaving the roots of the teeth more exposed and at a higher risk of experiencing decay. 

Lifestyle

Lifestyle factors like smoking or chewing tobacco, taking certain medications, and poor dental hygiene can all contribute to an increased risk of developing a cavity. Tobacco dries out the mouth, reducing the saliva production that keeps your mouth clean and allowing oral bacteria to thrive. This same side effect can occur when taking antihistamines and some anti-anxiety drugs. Lastly, a lack of consistent brushing and flossing can and will have a big impact on your overall oral health. Without these healthy habits, sugar lingers on the teeth, harboring more bacteria and resulting in more cavities. 

Genetics

Genetics can also play a significant role in the health of your teeth. According to recent research, nearly 60% of tooth decay could be the result of genetic factors, causing even people with excellent dental hygiene to get cavities regularly. This is because of the genetic makeup and formation of the tooth enamel. When we are born, we have both sets of full teeth already formed. Though they reside up in the jaw until they are ready to come down, the strength and durability of the enamel has already been established. If you know that you have a family history of oral health issues, you may be at an increased risk of cavities and should discuss this with your dentist. He or she may suggest more frequent dental health checks to screen for cavities. 

How can you prevent cavities?

Although it may be nearly impossible to keep your teeth cavity-free your entire life, there are many measures you can take to help prevent their severity and frequency. These include professional cleanings, fluoride treatments, sealants, good dental hygiene, and avoiding foods and beverages with high sugar content.

  • Professional cleanings are recommended every six months to keep cavities at bay. During a cleaning, a dental hygienist uses specialized tools to remove built up plaque and tartar. Tartar cannot be removed at home so these regular visits are important to have it cleaned away. In addition to a cleaning, your dentist will perform an overall oral evaluation to ensure that you don’t have any signs of cavities, infection, gum disease or oral cancer. If a cavity is discovered at this appointment, your dentists will likely schedule a date to do a filling.
  • Fluoride is a natural mineral that can be applied to your enamel to build strong, durable and cavity resistant teeth. This will be applied if your dentist determines that your enamel is weak and needs reinforcement. Fluoride treatments are fast and easy, involving a special coating painted on to your teeth. After a few minutes, the fluoride is rinsed off.
  • Sealants are plastic seals that are placed on the teeth in the back of the mouth to smooth out deep grooves where bacteria like to accumulate. Sealants are often recommended for children or teenagers who have yet to establish good dental hygiene habits or who have deeply grooved or pitted molars.
  • Good dental hygiene is perhaps the best method for cavity prevention. Brushing and flossing twice daily helps manage bacteria, sugar, and plaque accumulation, but it’s important to do it right. Castle Dental recommends setting a timer for two minutes, allocating thirty seconds to each quadrant of the mouth, especially for young children. While good old fashioned brushing and flossing is enough to get the job done, an electric toothbrush or a Waterpik may enhance the effectiveness of your routine.
  • Limiting consumption of sugary or acidic foods and beverages can help prevent

excessive sugar residue in the mouth and enamel erosion. While sugar residue feeds the bacteria that cause tooth decay, acid weakens tooth enamel, making it more susceptible to developing a cavity. While you don’t have to avoid them all together, you should limit your consumption of them and try to brush your teeth as soon as possible after eating or drinking them, reducing the amount of sugar or acid settling in your mouth.

Some of the worst foods and beverages for causing cavities include:

  • Soda, sweetened coffees and teas, juice, desserts and fast food due to their high sugar content
  • Diet soda, vinegar, tomatoes, lemons, limes (as well as foods made from these ingredients such as sauces or deserts) due to their highly acidic nature

A healthy diet of foods high in calcium and magnesium can help build stronger, healthier enamel which leads to a more cavity resistant smile. These can include:

  • Calcium rich foods and drinks like milk, yogurt and cheese 
  • Magnesium rich foods like spinach, beans, cashew and almonds

How are cavities detected and treated?

Cavities are typically detected at the dentist because they don’t usually cause painful symptoms until they become severe. Because of this, it is highly recommended to schedule your twice annual dental checkups. Your dentist will take X-rays and use special lighting and tools to locate cavities. These exams are essential in maintaining a healthy smile. If your dentist does detect a cavity, they will likely schedule a time for you to come back to receive a filling. 

At the appointment for your filling, you can expect a small injection of a local anesthetic to numb the tooth and the surrounding tissue. This is typically the most uncomfortable part of the procedure. Once you are numb, your dentist will start by clearing out the decay using a tiny drill and other specialized tools. Next he will fill in the newly cleaned hole with the filling material. There are two options when it comes to filling in the cavity:

  • Metal Amalgam. This material is the least expensive option; however, it does have a metallic look to it that some people prefer to avoid. It is typically applied to the back teeth or molars, so they are not as easily seen. 
  • Composite Resin. This material has a more natural appearance but tends to be slightly more expensive. It is the most common material used today and once the resin is filled in, it is indistinguishable from the natural tooth. 

Following the procedure you can return to your normal life. Although you can eat immediately following a filling, you may wait a few hours so that the anesthetic can wear off. When your mouth is numb, you increase your risk of biting your cheek or tongue, causing irritation and soreness. The filling may have some slight sensitivity afterward, but this should subside quickly. If the sensitivity persists longer than 2 weeks, let your dentist know. 

What happens if cavities aren’t treated?

Cavities will not heal on their own and, if left untreated, will get worse. You can protect healthy enamel the best you can, but once a cavity exists, the damage is done, and restoring the tooth requires the skill of a professional dentist. Leaving a cavity untreated can allow the decay to spread, resulting in the appearance of unsightly dark spots on the teeth, sensitivity to hot and cold foods and drinks, pain and discomfort, decay in the jawbone, or even tooth loss.

At the earliest stages, a cavity may require a cap or a crown. This is essentially a protective cover for the tooth made of ceramic or metal that protects the filling once the procedure has been completed. 

If the decay has been left untreated for too long, you may need a root canal. This is necessary when the pulp, or the tissue surrounding the roots of teeth, has become infected due to untreated decay. Though root canals have a bad reputation for being painful, they are no more uncomfortable than a filling. They are, however, considerably more expensive and more traumatic to the teeth and gums. 

In severe cases, when a crown or root canal isn’t enough to save the tooth, the tooth may need to be extracted altogether and replaced with a prosthesis like a dental implant.

What about cavities in deciduous (baby) teeth?

It is a common misconception that cavities in deciduous teeth, or baby teeth, do not require treatment because they will fall out eventually. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Baby teeth  require treatment because pain and sensitivity could lead to motor delays and dietary issues, and problems in the baby teeth could spread into the developing adult teeth, causing more problems in the future. 

Children need healthy teeth to ensure the muscles in their mouths are functioning properly. If they are experiencing pain due to an untreated cavity, it is likely this will affect their ability to speak or eat. Perhaps even more concerning, pain or sensitivity can cause a child to restrict the foods they consume and dietary deficiencies can lead to a multitude of other problems in children. 

Deciduous teeth are also essential in guiding the adult teeth into place so it is very important that your child visit the dentist every six months to ensure any cavities are found and treated quickly. 

Some tips to help children avoid cavities include:

  • Setting a timer while brushing teeth to encourage kids to do a thorough job. Timers provide a deadline or something to race against making the chore fun.
  • Flossing for them after allowing them an opportunity to do it themselves first. This allows them to learn but also ensures the job is done thoroughly.
  • Scheduling their regular dental checkups. Regular checkups give your child’s dentist the chance to check for any problems and to monitor areas of concern as well as developmental progress.
  • Limiting the intake of sugar. Children are particularly drawn to sugary food and drinks, especially juices and candies, so be mindful of what they have access to at home and that they are brushing following the consumption of these foods and drinks.
  • Never put a baby or toddler to bed with a sippy cup or bottle of milk or juice. This habit can be challenging to break and often leads to an extensive pattern of decay and cavities. 

By instilling healthy oral habits in children–as well as assisting them and coaching them through them–you give your child the foundation for a lifetime of good oral health. Establishing regular brushing and flossing habits early will provide the easist and most effective prevention against cavities and gum disease. 

If your child does get a cavity, you may be referred to a pediatric dentist who specializes in treating deciduous teeth and dealing with the fear and anxiety this treatment may cause in small children. Pediatric dentists are also skilled in treatment options like sedation dentistry, which allow them to treat young patients quickly and calmly.

How much do fillings cost?

There are many factors that contribute to the cost of a filling including the extent of decay, the location of the tooth, the type of material used, and the type of sedation or anesthetic used. However, fillings are a common dental procedure and are often covered in part or completely by an insurance plan. If you do not have dental insurance, Castle Dental offers our own OneSmile Dental Plan, as well as several financing and payment plans to help you afford the care you need.

Correct Your Cavities at Castle Dental

With multiple convenient locations, flexible scheduling, and affordable services, Castle Dental makes it fast, easy, and inexpensive to treat your cavities. Our comprehensive dental care offerings include fillings, dental sealants, fluoride treatment, and regular checkups and x-rays, providing you plenty of options and opportunities to achieve your optimal oral health. If you suspect you may have a cavity or if it has been more than six months since your last dental exam, call us or visit us online today to schedule an appointment. When you choose Castle Dental, you’re choosing exceptional care and investing in your smile!