Dental cavities are caused by tooth decay, and they are traditionally treated by the use of dental fillings after the decayed material has been removed. Although it’s possible to greatly decrease your chances of developing tooth decay by practicing good oral hygiene and limiting sugary snacks and beverages, most people get at least one cavity during their lives. Symptoms of cavities include pain, sensitivity to heat and cold, or visible holes in the teeth — however, many patients experience no signs or symptoms of cavities at all, which is why it’s important to schedule dental checkups on a regular basis. Those who are particularly susceptible to the development of tooth decay should speak with their oral care professional about possibly getting antibacterial treatments designed to keep bacteria at minimal levels.
Risk Factors of Leaving Cavities Untreated
Although it may be tempting to ignore cavities in the hopes that they will go away, things will just continue to get worse if they’re left untreated. The decay will continue to erode the tooth, and you could end up losing it altogether as well as experience significant pain as the condition progresses. Affected teeth may also develop abscesses, and in extreme cases, the gum tissue may become infected.
Materials Commonly Used for Fillings
Traditional fillings have been made from either gold or silver amalgam fillings. However, because silver fillings release a small amount of mercury, more and more patients are requesting other options. Another drawback of both gold and silver fillings is that they don’t match the color of the natural teeth. Fortunately, modern dental fillings include tooth-colored materials as well as provide other benefits. Modern filling choices include:
- Composite resin fillings. These fillings are comprised of a mixture of plastic and resin that are installed in the tooth cavity while it is still soft, which provides it with the opportunity to mold to the cavity for a perfect fit.
- Porcelain fillings. The most expensive filling option, porcelain fillings offer the most natural look. They’re also more durable and stain-resistant than other types of fillings, although care must be taken because they can be more brittle than the other types.
- Glass Ionomer fillings. Often used to fill cavities in children because they are still growing, glass ionomer fillings have an average life expectancy of five years. During this period of time, they release small amounts of fluoride in order to promote healthy teeth and gum tissue.
- Gold and silver fillings are still used as well. Many patients prefer the extreme durability of gold fillings, while others just like the way they look. However, it can be difficult to find a dentist who still offers them. Silver fillings are also long-lasting and durable, and they’re often used as filling material for cavities in the back of the mouth that aren’t easily visible.
Taking care of your teeth after fillings have been installed involves practicing good oral hygiene by brushing and flossing twice per day and using an antibacterial mouthwash at least once per day. Your dentist can provide you with further advice and help you decide which type of filling is best for you. Please don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment if you haven’t seen your dentist in the past six months or if you have reason to suspect that you may have a cavity or other dental health issues.