HOW ARE CAVITIES REPAIRED?
Once your Dentist has determined that you have a cavity, how much of the tooth has been affected needs to be evaluated. If the cavity is small, a filling will work nicely to restore the tooth to its former size and shape after the infected portion of the tooth is removed.
Fillings are usually made of a silver mixture which contains mercury (amalgam) or of a tooth colored material known as composite. Because of the controversy about mercury, many people prefer to have composite fillings placed on their teeth.
According to some researchers, composite fillings have other advantages over amalgam. The newer composites when used with the new adhesives attach tightly to the tooth and it appears that the filling can last much longer than the old amalgams did. The composite fillings are also tooth colored and are much nicer looking than the amalgam fillings which tend to turn black with age.
Another advantage of composites over amalgam is the fact that when amalgams break down it is not easy to pick up on x-rays or by visual examination, however, the bacteria have the ability to enter the tooth and cause re-infection. By the time that the decay is visible it is usually quite severe. However, on the composites, any reinfection can be seen very early so, it allows for repair of the tooth before much damage has been done by the bacteria.
If a large portion of the tooth is destroyed by the infection of bacteria, then fillings will not be adequate to fix the tooth. In this case a crown or "cap" is recommended which adds strength to the tooth. These caps are made of gold or other metals, or they can be made from porcelain. Porcelain or porcelain over a semi-precious metal are the best for restoring front teeth that are badly broken down since the porcelain can match the other teeth and look very attractive.
If a tooth has been killed by decay, then a Root Canal treatment must be performed after which a crown is placed to protect the tooth from fracture.
WHY DO TEETH RE-DECAY?
If teeth are exposed to bacterial acids repeatedly or for prolonged periods of time, they will re-decay regardless of how well the tooth was previously repaired. Brushing your teeth after every single time that you eat is vital in avoiding decay.
Prescription strength fluorides can be placed on the teeth to help strengthen them and protect them from bacterial attack. There are new generation fluorides now that can stay on the tooth for up to four hours!
THE REPAIR PROCESS
There are many different techniques for tooth repair with fillings. I will describe here the technique which I use in my office.
1. Old filling material and obvious decay is removed and cleaned out of the tooth.
2. The tooth is then checked with a special stain which shows any hidden decay to ensure that all decay is removed.
3. After the tooth is completely free of decay the tooth is cleaned with an etching liquid followed by a disinfectant which also contains fluoride.
4. The bonding agent is applied followed by the tooth colored filling material and the materials are hardened.
5. The filling is shaped and polished so that the bite is comfortable and the tooth looks and feels natural.
6. Prescription strength fluoride is applied to the tooth to help make the tooth less prone to attack by bacteria.
THE KEY TO A DISEASE FREE MOUTH:
1) Proper oral hygiene
2) Visits to your Dentist every 3 – months as prescribed for periodontal care
3) Following through on the recommended dental treatment
4) Use of prescription strength fluoride gels or rinses
5) Use of sealants on the chewing surfaces of back teeth
6) Proper diets low in sugar and high in water
7) Examinations from your Dentist every 6 months to help detect any existing problems as early as possible