When it comes to restorative dentistry, the most common problem is tooth decay. That means the most common solution is a dental filling. Many adults have at least one filling in their teeth right now. That’s because dental fillings are a great, low-impact, and affordable way to repair cavities.
Despite being so common, there are several facts about cavities and fillings that many people don’t know. Knowledge and awareness are great tools for keeping you healthy, so here are some of those little-known facts.
1. Dental fillings are not supposed to be permanent.
In order for dental fillings to stay in the cavity, it needs to be bonded to healthy enamel. Otherwise, it will pop out whenever you chew. That exposes a weak spot on your teeth. It can also collect food and bacteria more easily. Once stuck in there, your dental filling helps keep that tooth strong and safe. As the years go by, the bond between filling and enamel can weaken.
You know how hot summers and cold winters tear up roads? All of the hot and cold foods do the same with the adhesive holding the filling in place. Dental fillings can last for many years, but it’s normal for them to need replacing after so many years.
2. Sometimes, a cavity has gotten too big for a dental filling.
Again, that dental filling needs healthy enamel to bond with so it doesn’t fall out. Every time you chew, you put pressure on the fillings. This makes it push up against the enamel. If a cavity is big, any filling there might put too much pressure on the healthy enamel. You could end up cracking the tooth. If the cavity is big, there also might not be enough enamel left to adhere to.
It’s not uncommon to skip dental fillings and use a dental crown instead. It seals up the cavity just as well as a filling. Because it covers the whole visible part of your tooth, a dental crown will also hold the enamel together.
3. The same bacteria that cause cavities can also cause gum disease.
Cavities happen when harmful bacteria live on the surface of your teeth. They secrete acid which corrodes the enamel, creating a small hole called a cavity. They do not normally go away on their own. Instead, those bacteria can grow and spread out.
When these bacteria spread onto your gums, it creates a condition called gum disease. That same acid irritates and inflames your gum tissues. This can lead to bleeding gums, soreness, and in advanced cases, bone loss and missing teeth.
4. Tooth-colored composite fillings can be used instead of metal ones.
In the past, metal amalgam fillings were just about the only treatment for cavities. They work, mind you. It’s just that metal doesn’t exactly look good in your mouth. When you smile or laugh, people can see silvery metal in your teeth.
These days, you can get tooth-colored or “white” fillings instead. These are made from a composite resin that’s as durable and strong as metal fillings. But they are colored to match the tooth they go onto. This way, people only see a white smile when you show off your teeth.
5. Fluoride repairs damage, but too much can hurt your teeth.
Fluoride is in toothpastes and, in many cities, in tap water. Children and some adults get fluoride treatments and varnishes on their teeth. That’s because fluoride is very good for your smile. It can strengthen your teeth by repairing microscopic damage to the enamel. All in all, fluoride is great stuff.
It’s very rare, but some people can get too much fluoride. In mild cases, your teeth develop deep white stains. In severe cases, your enamel can develop craters. However, this does not mean that fluoride is bad for you! It only means that, like anything, you can have too much.
6. Untreated cavities can let bacteria infect the dental pulp inside your teeth.
Cavities are basically holes in your enamel. When not treated, they tend to grow. Eventually, a cavity can break through the outer layers of your teeth and expose the dental pulp inside. Since harmful bacteria are creating the cavity, this allows the bacteria to infect the pulp. This is usually very painful because your pulp is home to so many nerve endings. If this happens, the only way to remove the infection and save the tooth is through a root canal.
Cavities might be common, but they’re also serious. The longer you wait to have a cavity repaired, the greater the damage and the cost to you. That’s why visiting our Rochester, MN dental office every six months is so important. Dental exams from our team can spot cavities when they’re still small. Call us today at 507-315-2932 for your next appointment.