Modern preventive dentistry techniques have made progress in stemming tooth decay, but it remains a widespread problem. Cavities can occur in people of all ages and are especially prevalent in those with a high-sugar diet, a chronically dry mouth, and those who do not brush and floss regularly.
Dr. Mark S. Davis sees tooth decay and its damaging effects every day at Davis Dentistry in Scottsdale, AZ. He offers a range of restorative dentistry treatments for cavities to improve the overall health of the mouth. Here, he discusses some ways he can restore oral health for patients with cavities.
Development and Progression of a Cavity
Tooth decay is caused by bacterial excretions in the mouth. These microorganisms consume fermentable carbohydrates, especially sugars, that remain in the mouth after eating; the bacteria then produce acidic byproducts.
These acids start by demineralizing the tooth's enamel and, if left unchecked, penetrate the secondary layer, or dentin. Eventually, the decay will reach the pulp, or inner nerve and blood vessels, of the tooth. When this happens, the pulp will become infected and the patient will develop a toothache.
If the infection in the pulp spreads through the tip of the root and into the surrounding tissues outside the tooth, a dental abscess develops. This is characterized by pain and facial swelling.
The treatment of a dental cavity depends on how far it has progressed. If it has not yet penetrated the enamel of the tooth, it may be possible to reverse or "heal" the cavity with meticulous oral hygiene, diet modification, and fluoride applications.
Once it has penetrated the enamel and begun to extend into the dentin, complete removal of the decay and placement of a conservative tooth-colored filling will be required. If the decay has penetrated deeper and wider, a larger filling or perhaps an inlay or onlay may be needed to restore the tooth. If even greater strength is desired, a cap or crown may be indicated.
Once the cavity extends into the dental pulp, it will require a different form of treatment. In this situation, root canal therapy will be required to remove all the infected pulp before the tooth is restored. The ideal restoration for a tooth that has been treated with a root canal tooth is a crown. It provides the most strength to the weakened tooth structure.
If a root canal is not possible, the tooth must be extracted.
A tooth that has abscessed must be treated even more aggressively. This can mean draining the abscess and prescribing antibiotics, before performing either a root canal or an extraction.
There is no secret to preventing dental cavities. It is one of the most preventable of all human maladies. You can virtually eliminate your risk of developing cavities by decreasing the frequency of sweets, brushing frequently with a fluoridated toothpaste, and seeing your dentist regularly for dental exams, cleanings, and fluoride treatments.
If you have questions about how to prevent or treat cavities, or about any of the other services we provide at Davis Dentistry, let us know. We can help you achieve a brighter, whiter smile. Contact us online or call the office at (480) 595-1300.