Dental caries (cavities) are the most common disease in the United States, second only to the common cold. By closing off these spaces, Dr. Abir Faraj can prevent bacteria from entering and causing further decay. Fillings also restore the strength and function of your tooth.
How Does a Cavity Form?
To understand decay, you first have to understand the structure of your tooth. A hard, crystalline substance called enamel covers the outside of each tooth above the gumline. It is the most highly mineralized (96 percent) and hardest substance in the human body. The enamel provides a strong chewing surface and protects the inner workings of your tooth: the dentin, cementum and dental pulp. The primary mineral in enamel is hydroxyapatite (crystalline calcium phosphate). However, because of the high mineral content and the location, the enamel is also susceptible to a process called demineralization. The most important factor is acid.
Highly acidic foods can cause demineralization, but so can the bad bacteria in your mouth. The bacteria metabolize sugars left from food particles in your mouth and produce acid. This all gets stuck in the plaque that forms on the enamel and dissolves the calcium phosphate structure. In early stages of decay, the enamel will thin and soften.
Cavities can form in the enamel and not pass to the dentin. These are called microcavities or incipient caries. These can be reversed with fluoride treatment and persistent oral hygiene care. In the next stage of demineralization, decay progresses to the dentinoenamel junction (DEJ where enamel meets dentin). The third stage is actual cavitation in the layer of dentin. These last two stages cannot be reversed and require removal and filling.
Will I Know If I Have a Cavity?
Not always. If you maintain your six-month appointments, Dr. Faraj can catch dental decay and provide treatment before it causes any symptoms. However, if you wait too long decay could cause toothaches, sensitivity and bad breath. You might notice swelling of the gums, discolored spots on your teeth or visible pitting or fissures. To diagnose a cavity, the dentist uses an instrument to feel the tooth structure and test for softness. For cavities between teeth the dentist relies on X-rays.
What is the Procedure for Fillings?
The dentist will numb the area of the infected tooth and clean away the decay. Once she cleans out the cavity, Dr. Faraj will fill it with the best material and seal out infection and decay. Once the filling is placed, the dentist will smooth any rough or uncomfortable edges to ensure proper bite and function.
Different Types of Fillings
- Gold fillings are strong and tolerated by gum tissue, but they are the most expensive material in fillings. They require two or more appointments because technicians create the fillings in an off-site lab and ship them back to the dentist.
- Amalgam fillings resist wear and are fairly inexpensive, but the dark color makes them more noticeable. The dentist can generally place these silver fillings in one visit, but they are not often used for front teeth.
- Composite resin fillings are the same color as your teeth but are not as strong as alloys or porcelain. The dentist can place them in one appointment and the material bonds with the tooth structure. These are perhaps the most versatile fillings, and the dentist can retain more of your natural tooth structure.
- Porcelain fillings, also called inlays or onlays, are fashioned in a dental lab before the dentist bonds them to the tooth. These are more resistant to staining than composites and can last as long as 15 years but can cost as much as gold.
Choose Novi Family Dentistry for Fillings
Dental caries are highly preventable; however, if you do get a cavity you should turn to Dr. Faraj for treatment. She will evaluate your needs and provide the best fillings possible. If you do have any questions or concerns, including filling costs, do not hesitate to contact us or schedule an appointment for an evaluation and consultation.