What is a cavity?
A cavity is decay of a tooth caused by bacteria that are present in the mouth. The bacteria feed on the sugars and starches in our diet and form sticky plaque to attach to the tooth. The plaque also serves to capture food particles for the growing bacterial infection.
The byproducts of the bacteria are acidic and cause the minerals in the teeth to dissolve and weaken the enamel structure. The weakened area will “cave in” or “cavitate” thus causing a “cavity” in the tooth. This roughens the surface of the tooth and makes complete removal of the bacterial plaque impossible with regular cleaning.
The bacteria penetrate deeper into the tooth, past the enamel and into the softer, living dentin. Initially the decay is painless but as it progress sensitivity to cold and sweets will start. Unless treated the decay will extend to the pulp causing a toothache.
What is a filling?
A filling is used to replace the decayed portion of the tooth after it is removed. Fillings can be tooth colored plastic or silver colored “mercury” fillings called amalgam. Dr. Schmidt does not use the silver or “mercury” fillings at 16th Street Dental.
How is a filling done?
The tooth is numbed with an anesthetic agent and a series of small drills are used to remove the decayed and infected tooth structure. Sometimes a special dye will be used to ensure complete removal of all the infected tooth structure.
The tooth is cleaned and prepared with a special acidic agent to ensure proper bonding of the white filling material. A series of primers and bonding agents seal the tooth and provide micromechanical attachment to the dentin and enamel surfaces.
White colored filling material is placed and shaped to mimic your natural tooth structure. A special blue light emits light energy to polymerize the filling material and make it harden. The tooth is then shaped and adjusted to fit comfortable into your bite.
Will I be sensitive after?
Most of the time there is very little sensitivity after a filling. Soreness at the site or the injection and in the gums around the tooth is normal and usually goes away within a day.
Occasionally, when the decay was deep, there can be sensitivity to cold. This will pass with time, usually within a week or two. Many times cold sensitivity is due to the filling not being 100% adjusted to your bite and you will need a short visit to adjust the filling.
Numbing will sometimes prevent you from feeling the pressure on the tooth. Also, the biting and chewing forces you use in your daily life are difficult to replicate after a procedure, you may feel it only while eating. Additionally, when your jaw is open for an extended period of time synovial fluid can accumulate in your TMJ space causing a slight shift to your bite. Hours later the fluid is dispersed and your bite changes slightly back to normal but the filling now feel high. A quick adjustment is all that is needed.
How long does a filling last?
The longevity of a filling depends on many variables. One of the most important is the size of the filling. Filling material is a white puttylike plastic material that is placed in the tooth and hardened with a blue light. It takes very specific chemical properties to allow this and in return we give up some of the ideal physical properties.
When compared to natural tooth structure, white filling material is: not as strong, wears faster, shrinks slightly over time and expands and contracts due to temperature at a slightly different rate. The larger the filling is the more these physical problems affect the longevity of the filling.
Think of drywall, a small hole can be fixed with spackle, a larger hole will need a drywall patch, very large holes or multiple holes will need a whole new sheet of drywall. If the integrity of the wall is damaged then the wall will need to be taken down and a new wall built.
Spackle is a filling, ideally less than 30% of the natural crown. A metal or ceramic inlay or onlay is a drywall patch, between 30% but less than 70% of the natural crown. New drywall is a crown, greater than 70% of the natural crown, multiple cavities on one crown or cracking of the tooth. A whole new wall is extraction of the tooth and an implant.
Many women wonder the same thing about dental work while pregnant.
What about getting dental work while pregnant?
In July 2013 the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists released a statement indicating that dental x-rays, cleaning and necessary dental work is safe to perform while pregnant. Delaying dental care can lead to more serious complications and put your baby at a greater risk.
A quote directly from the article states, ““We can all reassure our patients that routine teeth cleanings, dental X-rays, and local anesthesia are safe during pregnancy,” said Dr. Cheng. “Pregnancy is not a reason to delay root canals or filling cavities if they are needed because putting off treatment may lead to further complications.” One potential benefit of improving a woman’s oral health: It may decrease the transmission of cavity-causing bacteria from mother to baby. This can help lessen the future risk of cavities in children.”
Furthermore, it is suggested that any women who is planning on becoming pregnant should get a dental exam to ensure their oral health is optimal prior to getting pregnant.
Any elective or cosmetic work should not be done while pregnant, while the risk is small it is not ever worth it for cosmetic work.