Many people are familiar with the term cavities when it comes to dental health, but few understand what this really means. Cavities run the gamut from an early reversible spot on a tooth to severe rampant decay that destroys all of the teeth. Here we will discuss the cavities that we can repair with dental treatment. We will cover the larger decay that requires extraction of the teeth on our Tooth Decay/Rot page.
A cavity is a bacterial infection of the hard structure of a tooth. Enamel is the hardest substance in the human body, impenetrable to almost everything. This makes it the perfect coating so our teeth can withstand eating and drinking. Enamel covers a slightly softer material called dentin, which makes up the bulk of each tooth.
Bacteria in dental plaque can cause cavities by using a strong acid to break through the layer of enamel covering a tooth. Most people know that sugar causes cavities. Actually, the acid produced by bacteria when they ingest sugar is the real culprit. This acid softens and weakens the enamel surface, allowing the bacteria to infiltrate the tooth. Once bacteria reach the underlying enamel, they are virtually unstoppable. They continue moving into the tooth, dissolving the healthy tooth structure as they go.
We call this process, officially known as caries, a “cavity” because eventually this bacterial destruction will cause an actual hole in the tooth.
Without intervention, cavities will only get worse over time. Untreated cavities grow in size, moving closer and closer to the nerve and blood vessels that live within the hollow center of each tooth. The most important reason you must treat cavities is that enamel and dentin do not have the ability to regrow. The hard tooth structure you lose during the cavity process cannot be rebuilt naturally. You must have it restored by a dentist.
Cavities can lead to sensitive teeth, toothaches and infections. They can also cause ugly brown or black spots to show in your smile.
The treatment for a cavity depends on its size. The earliest cavities that have not yet broken through enamel require a process known as remineralization. This involves an improvement in your daily oral hygiene and professional application of materials that strengthen and re-harden the areas of enamel that the caries weakened. We love stopping these early cavities in their tracks when we can.
A cavity that penetrates the enamel and affects the underlying dentin requires removal and restoration with a dental filling. Your dentist removes the softened tooth structure and bacteria and replaces it with a perfectly shaped filling to recreate both the appearance and function of your natural tooth.
Large cavities that undermine the strength of a tooth may require larger treatment. This category of cavities typically weakens the tooth so much that we must cover and protect the whole tooth with a dental crown.
If you are struggling with pain in your tooth, you may have a cavity. Let one of our compassionate dentists take a look and provide a treatment plan to fix your dental issues and get you back on the mend. We have locations all over Ohio and offer convenient online scheduling. If you are experiencing significant tooth pain, call the Premier Dental Office that is closest to you to schedule an urgent dental care visit.
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