Sometimes our teeth can develop cavities (holes). These can be caused by dental decay or by mechanical fractures. We can also develop cavities caused by diet for example acid erosion.
What are the different types of cavities our teeth can develop?
- Caries, commonly known as Decay – Dental decay is the destruction of your tooth enamel (the hard, outer layer of your teeth) Plaque, a sticky film of bacteria, constantly forms on your teeth. When you eat or drink foods containing sugars, the bacteria in plaque produce acids that attack tooth enamel. It is this that causes holes in your teeth. Cavities caused by decay will spread from the outer layer of your tooth (enamel) into the second layer (dentine), it is at this point they can become sensitive to hot, cold and sweet foods. If left untreated the decay can spread further into the centre of the tooth and reach the nerves, leading to a dental abscess.
- Attrition, commonly known as Erosion – This usually shows up as hollows and a general wearing away of the tooth surface and biting edges. This can expose the dentine underneath, which is a darker, yellower colour than the enamel leaving your teeth discoloured. Because the dentine is sensitive, your teeth can also be more sensitive to hot and cold, or acidic foods and drinks.
- Abfraction, cavities not caused by decay – a loss of tooth structure not caused by tooth decay. These cavities are thought to be caused by forces placed on the teeth during biting, eating, chewing and grinding; Enamel (the outer surface of a tooth), especially at undergoes large amounts of stress, causing micro fractures and loss of tooth substance. Abfraction cavities are usually seen at the gum line and can cause sensitivity in the area of the cavity.
Your dentist will be able to diagnose any cavities and address the cause, as well as suggesting a suitable solution at your dental examination.
How is a filling diagnosed?
If you have no symptoms from a cavity, the dentist will check around all your teeth at your routine dental examination for anything that may have that have gone unnoticed. This will involve, looking at the outer surfaces of the teeth, x-rays to check underneath the gum, magnified digital photographs taken inside the mouth. If a cavity is seen, the dentist will discuss in detail with you what happens next, and most importantly how to avoid cavities developing in future.
What is a filling?
A filling is a restoration used to rebuild and fill the hole in your tooth. A filling can be done using different materials, Amalgam (a mix of metal alloys) and Composite (a tooth coloured resin). Your dentist will determine which material is suitable for the type and location of the cavity, as well as taking into account your personal preference. At Andrew Brown Dental Practice we predominantly work with Composite Resin to restore teeth.
What happens at a filling appointment?
The dentist will gently nub up the tooth and gum using a local anaesthetic. Once this has taken effect he will remove any decay and prepare the tooth using specifically designed equipment suited to the procedure. Once the tooth is clean and free from decay he will place the filling and shape to replicate your original tooth shape and (if using composite resin) match the original colour and appearance.
How long will my filling take?
We typically allow 45 minutes for a filling, sometimes the procedure may require slightly longer and we allow an hour. The dentist will discuss the time needed with you before the treatment.