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3830 E Flamingo Rd Ste E2
Las Vegas, NV 89121
The problem of dental cavities, which is also known as tooth decay is usually brought on by erosion of tooth enamel and the onset of bacterial attack.
All humans have different types of bacteria living in their mouths, and it usually accumulates on the tooth surfaces and forms the sticky film which is usually called plaque. Plaque is especially difficult in the fissures and cracks of the back teeth, around bridgework, in between the teeth and near the gum line. Some plaque bacteria is essential in converting sugars and carbohydrates in foods into acids, and while they are essential to digestion these acids are also problematic because they dissolve the minerals in the surfaces of the teeth, forming small pits that get larger over time. This type of damage can occur anywhere that teeth are exposed to acids and plaque, including the hard crowns of the teeth and the unprotected roots of the teeth if they are exposed due to gum recession.
Cavities can penetrate to the main heart of your teeth, down below the protective enamel and through the softer dentin, even going as far down as the tooth pulp that contains the nerves. Although it is unknown what exactly causes the associated pain when someone has a deep cavity, it is theorized that it is caused by inflammation, exposure of the root surface to air and imbalance of fluid levels within the dentin.
The symptoms of cavities vary widely, many times showing no symptoms at all very early on. Once the decay has made it through the enamel and into the sensitive portions of the tooth, the symptoms are usually sensitivities to cold and heat.
Diagnosing cavities is usually done at your dentist’s office, either in a routine exam or in a special appointment made because the patient is in pain. There will be a visual examination and usually a physical probing of the teeth with an instrument called an explorer, which looks like a pointed pick. The dentist will probe the surfaces of the teeth searching for pits or damaged areas. From time to time, x-rays are also in order which will give the dentist the ability to see hidden damage that the physical exploring does not turn up.
The treatment for cavities is to put a filling in the tooth in order to stop the decay and stabilize the structure. The dentist will usually give the patient an anesthesia to block the pain of removal of the decaying material, which is done using a dental drill. The pain associated with this procedure usually ranges widely due to the amount of damage to the tooth in question, however it can usually be minimized to a manageable level if not completely eliminated through numbing with anesthetics, or potentially through sleep dentistry in extreme cases.
After the decay is removed and a clean surface is achieved, the tooth is filled. Fillings are usually made of dental amalgam, which is a grey material made with silver and copper, as well as other metals which improve the durability of the filling. Sometimes fillings are made with a composite resin which is closer to the color of the teeth themselves, if appearance is an issue. Amalgams are usually used in molars and premolars, and resins are usually used in the front teeth (although they can be used in any tooth.) If extreme strength is necessary, sometimes gold fillings are used, however these are usually far more expensive and are only used in some cases.
In cases where so much of the tooth needs to be removed in order to stabilize the cavity that there is not enough tooth material left to create a solid surface, the dentist may opt to install an artificial crown over the filled cavity. If there is too much damage to the interior of the tooth, the dentist may refer you to a specialist called an endontist, who would perform a root canal. In nearly all endodontic treatments and artificial crown is necessary after treatment.
Prevention of cavities is essential to good oral health, and is done by simply reducing the amount of plaque and bacteria in the mouth. The single best plan for reducing the amount of cavities that you sustain is brushing your teeth at least twice a day, and flossing them as well. An even better plan is to brush and floss after each meal, and go to the dentist for a professional exam and cleaning at least twice a year.
Eating less sugary or starchy foods will reduce the amounts of acid in your mouth, and because your mouth remains acidic for several hours after eating it is a good idea to avoid ongoing snacking as much as possible. Chewing gum containing xylitol helps reduce acids after eating, and fluoride treatments help keep enamel stronger. In children, new molars that have yet to be strengthened through fluoride can be protected by a dentist applying a sealant as soon as the teeth are fully exposed in the mouth.