Most people have a dental filling or two. That’s because tooth decay is the most common dental problem here in the US. Between the bacteria causing cavities being common and our diets being rich in sugar and carbs, cavities are a problem. Despite being so common, there are a lot of myths and unknown facts about tooth decay. Here are five facts about tooth decay and cavities that many people do not know.
1. Gum disease is caused by the same bacteria behind tooth decay. WHy do you get cavities? Does it have to do with too much sugar? Only partially. Cavities are caused by harmful bacteria. They thrive off sugar and other food particles left behind in your mouth. These bacteria secrete an acid that makes holes in your enamel that we call cavities.
However, that only happens if the bacteria are on your teeth. They can also be on your gums. The acid they produce irritates and hurts your gums, creating a condition called gum disease. This can give you gingivitis, marked by bad breath and bleeding gums. If not treated, gum disease can hurt your jawbone and cause your teeth to fall out.
2. Fillings are not designed to last forever and will need replacing eventually. In order to stay in the cavity, dental fillings need to bond to healthy enamel. At our Nashua, NH dental office, Dr. Kiehl will gently remove corroded enamel from around the cavity before placing the filling. This way, the filling uses healthy enamel to hold itself in place.
However, that bond won’t last forever. The bonding agent is very strong, but it expands and contracts whenever you eat hot and cold food. Years of that takes its toll. The adhesive starts to crack and can eventually give out. If you have a dental filling, be prepared to replace it at some point.
3. Metal fillings are no longer necessary to repair cavities. Long ago, metal amalgam (meaning a mixture of different metals) was the standard for dental fillings. They work, but they’re not without drawbacks. First of all, they look very out of place in your mouth. Whenever you talk, laugh, or yawn, people can see shiny, silvery metal in your teeth. Plus, some metal amalgams include a small amount of mercury, a metal poisonous to humans. Normally, there’s not enough mercury to worry about, but why take that chance?
Instead of metal amalgam, you can get composite resin dental fillings at our Nashua, NH dental office. These offer the same strength and durability as metal fillings. However, they are colored to match the tooth they’re going to repair. This way, it’s really difficult for people to even know you have a filling.
4. If a cavity does not get repaired soon enough, a dental filling might not work. The bacteria causing tooth decay do not take breaks. As long as they can find food, they will continue to multiply. That means a cavity does not take a break either. Until the bacteria are removed, the cavity will grow. Eventually, the cavity can become so big that a dental filling cannot help anymore.
Fillings need healthy enamel to bond with. Without it, the dental fillings can easily fall out. There isn’t enough healthy enamel left to adhere to. In these cases, you can get a dental crown to repair the damage. These caps cover the whole visible part of your tooth. They’re also designed to look just like a healthy version of the tooth it covers.
5. Cavities left to grow unchecked can destroy your teeth. You probably know someone who refuses to go to the dentist. Maybe they have dental anxiety, or maybe they’re just stubborn. Either way, their cavities can get out of control. As above, a cavity keeps growing. If it gets too big, dental fillings won’t work, and you’ll need a dental crown to repair the cavity. However, cavities can grow so big that they break into the dental pulp inside your tooth.
Dental pulp is home to the nerve endings for your tooth. It’s also home to blood vessels that keep the tooth “alive.” If the cavity gets too bad, you’ll need a root canal or you could lose your tooth. Yes, leaving a cavity untreated for too long can cause some serious problems.
Tooth decay starts out as a small problem you most likely cannot feel. Then it can grow big enough to cause all kinds of problems. That’s why your family should visit our Nashua, NH dental office every six months. Our dental cleanings can help keep those bacteria under control, and our dental exams can spot cavities while they’re still small enough for dental fillings. Call us 603-546-7460 for your next appointment.