Of all the problems that can happen to your teeth, cavities are by far the most common. They’re caused by harmful bacteria that live in your mouth. They eat tiny particles of food or drink that get stuck in your mouth, and they release acid. That’s what creates cavities — acid that starts eating away at your enamel.
These days, people know a lot about cavities. For example, you know eating too much sugar can lead to cavities and that a dentist can place a filling in the cavity to repair it. Here are seven facts about fillings and cavities that may surprise you.
1. Metal fillings often contain toxic mercury. In the past, your only choice for a filling material was metal amalgam. That’s a mix of several metals chosen to be easy to shape but strong enough to stay put. Metal is normally very hard. Mercury is often added to the mix because it helps make the metal soft enough to shape. The problem is that mercury is toxic. Studies have not proven it’s unsafe, but rather risk it, you can get metal-free composite fillings from our Nashua, NH dental office. They work just as well but do not contain any metal at all.
2. Any type of sugar or carbohydrate can increase your chances of cavities. Cavities are caused by bacteria. Those need food to survive and grow. Brushing and flossing help get rid of food particles, which keeps the bacteria in check. However, not all food is the same. Harmful bacteria love energy-rich foods like sugar. The more soda and candy you eat, the more sugar you give to those cavities. That’s why there’s a link between sugar and cavities.
But there are many forms of sugar in our food these days. “Sugar-free” foods can often have plenty of sugar alcohols. These are legally not sugar, but bacteria don’t read laws. The same is true with carbohydrates. They’re not sugar, but they’re close enough. Eating lots of pasta and bread can feed those bacteria similar to a mouthful of sugar.
3. Cavities can lead to painful infections inside your teeth. Unless our dentists repair the damage, cavities will continue to grow. Eventually, they can break into the dental pulp. This is where all of the blood vessels and nerve endings for a tooth can be found. When the bacteria reach the dental pulp, they infect it. This creates powerful toothaches and can eventually require either a root canal to save the tooth or a tooth extraction to remove it. As you can see, cavities are not something to take lightly.
4. Dental crowns can repair cavities too big for tooth fillings. Fillings need a certain amount of healthy enamel to bond with. Otherwise, the filling can easily fall out. If you have a cavity that wasn’t treated soon enough, you might have one that’s too big for a filling. Instead, you can get a dental crown. These will be made to look like a healthy version of the tooth it covers. It fits over the whole visible part of your tooth, so it will repair the large cavity.
5. Fluoride can repair microscopic problems in your enamel. You probably know that fluoride is good for your teeth. That’s why it’s in toothpaste and most tap water. But why is it good? Because fluoride has been shown to repair microscopic damage in your teeth’s enamel. It strengthens your teeth and can reverse tiny amounts of damage. Yes, too much fluoride can be bad like how too much of almost anything can be a problem. But for the most part, fluoride will help prevent cavities.
6. Tooth fillings will eventually need to be replaced. The damage to your enamel caused by harmful bacteria is permanent. There is no way to regrow enamel. Unfortunately, the composite fillings used at any dental office is not permanent. Over time, they can start to change shape thanks to all of those years of chewing and hot or cold food. At some point, our dentists will need to replace them. Thankfully, this process is no more complicated than putting a filling there in the first place. And if you have older metal fillings, you can get them replaced with composite fillings at our Nashua, NH dental office.
7. The bacteria that cause cavities can also cause gum disease. Cavities aren’t the only problem you have to worry about from those bacteria. They can build up plaque and tartar along the gumline. This irritates your gum tissue and helps lead to gum disease. Those bacteria can eventually infect your gums and start to make your teeth fall out. By taking care of cavities early on and keeping your teeth clean, you can help reduce your chances of gum disease.
Thankfully, cavities are easily repaired with composite fillings from our Nashua, NH dental office. If you have any questions about cavities or fillings, call us at 603-546-7460.