The word ‘cavity’ doesn’t mean what it used to, though it’s just as likely to cause unease. In an increasingly security-conscious word, the word ‘cavity’ is often followed by the word ‘search’. Today, we’d like to talk about the less invasive form of a cavity, the one that relates to your teeth.
If you have a strange pain inside your mouth, especially when you eat something that’s extra hot, cold, or sweet, it’s probably a good idea to see your dentist. The sensitivity to sugar and temperature may be caused by a slight erosion of enamel, and that can usually be repaired using the right toothpaste and a change in diet.
However, the pain might be caused by something more serious, like a cavity. A cavity is a hole on the surface of your tooth that allows contact with your nerves. That’s what causes the pain, and it can also cause dangerous infections.
Cavities are usually caused by bacteria and acid wearing away the surface of your teeth. Even if you’re a daily brusher you might still get cavities if you have a sweet tooth. Sugar and carbohydrates are more sticky in nature, so they may not be completely eliminated when you brush and floss. This build-up of plaque can develop into a cavity.
Dentists have different options, depending on the state of your teeth, so as soon as you begin to feel any pain or discomfort, make an appointment. The earlier the better, since this will make your treatment options less drastic.
Your dentist will use a dental mirror to thoroughly inspect the inside of your mouth, focusing on the site of the pain. If they can’t get a distinct read, they may ask for an X-ray to get a clearer picture and see how badly the teeth and gums are faring.
The worst case scenario is a root canal or extraction, and both can be immensely painful – and expensive. If your cavity isn’t too far gone, your dentist might suggest a filling instead. During a filling, the dentist will replace your worn out enamel with an artificial substance.
The filler restores the shape of the tooth, which lets you eat and brush without pain. The filler also protects the inner part of your tooth, covering up the exposure and preventing bacterial access. Immediately after a filling, you might still feel a little discomfort and sensitivity to temperature, but that will pass in a few weeks.
Before filling your tooth, your dentist will drill the point of the cavity to remove the chipped bits of tooth and get rid of any rot, bacteria, and acid that had accumulated inside the hole. Depending on the depth of the hole in your tooth, this process can range from mild discomfort to intense pain.
Getting rid of the accumulated dirt and debris also exposes the nerve system further, and this is primarily what makes your teeth sensitive after a filling. It’s necessary though, because any dirt that gets left on your tooth might end up getting sealed inside the filling. That could rot your teeth from the inside, so bite down that temporary torture, it’s for your own good.
You can fill your teeth with metal, plastic, or porcelain, and each material has its own benefits and drawbacks. For metal, the options are gold and silver. Gold is the most durable filling option, and it can last for up to twenty years before you need a replacement. It’s also the most expensive option, which is probably why pirates and gangsters see it as a status symbol.
Gold fillings are custom-made in a lab, and they don’t trigger allergies, so they are thought to be the best option if you can afford it. They bind well to your gums and are a more labour-intensive option since you need to visit your dentist more than once before you’re done.
Silver fillings can usually be installed in a single session, but they’re not as flattering as gold. While silver on your finger, neck, or ears can be quite beautiful, silver inside your mouth looks grey and unappealing.
From a few inches away, a silver filling looks more like a greyed out tooth than a piece of bling, so dentists don’t usually place it on your visible teeth. It’s more common as a filling for molars. Silver fillings aren’t pure silver. They’re actually an amalgam, and they’re significantly cheaper than gold fillings, though they don’t last as long.
Plastic fillings are made using a resin composite that lasts between three and ten years, depending on how well you take care of your teeth. They can simulate the appearance of natural teeth, by matching the right tone and colour. But they are prone to chipping and staining, so tea, coffee, tobacco, and coloured sweets will leave a mark.
Finally, you can have your teeth filled with porcelain, which is more reliable and attractive than plastic and can be passed off as a real tooth. Porcelain overlays and inlays don’t stain in the way that plastic fillings do, so they’ll give you a consistently sparkling smile. They’re pricey though, costing as much as gold fillings.
Talk to your dentist about your need for fillings, and your choices of what material to use. And as much as possible, avoid cavities in the first place by eating healthy, brushing twice a day, and flossing regularly. It’s better for your teeth, and for your pocket.