Cavities are the most common oral health problem in the US. As much as 91% of all American adults have at least one cavity or filling in their mouths, and by age 65, that percentage increases to 96%. Fortunately, cavities can be easily treated with a simple filling, which can stop any current discomfort related to your cavity, protect your teeth against future decay, and help you avoid the need for more serious treatments like dental crowns or even root canal therapy.
Signs You Might Need a Filling
How do you know you need a filling? Ideally, you are getting regular dental cleanings & exams, and your dentist will be able to identify your need. But what about between visits or if you’re overdue for an exam? Here are some signs to watch out for:
- Discolored (brown, black, or chalky white) spot on the tooth
- Visible hole in the tooth
- Food gets stuck in teeth
- Tooth sensitivity or pain
For some cavities, it’s easy to see the problem. You might see a small black pit on your tooth, like a fleck of pepper that won’t wipe away. Sometimes, you’ll notice a larger, discolored region on the tooth. This may be brown, black, but it may also be whiter than the surrounding areas. When teeth start losing minerals (see below) they can change to a whiter shade, before cavities form. If you get treatment for these discolored areas, you may be able to avoid a filling.
Other times, you may not be able to see the cavity, but you can feel it. You might notice that you are getting more food stuck in the region than in the past. Or you might notice that your tooth is painful in a way that it wasn’t in the past, sensitive to pressure or temperature changes.
How to Prevent Tooth Decay
Fillings are a great procedure for treating tooth decay, which creates cavities, but it’s even better to prevent decay in the first place. To prevent tooth decay, it’s important to understand how it happens.
Tooth decay occurs when oral bacteria consume sugar and excrete acid onto your tooth enamel. Tooth enamel is very strong against pressure, but it’s vulnerable to acid. As the acid removes minerals from the tooth enamel, it creates a small hole, which is called a cavity, although we often call them dental caries.
Preventing tooth decay involves three basic steps: having a healthy diet, cleaning your teeth daily, and getting regular professional cleanings and exams.
Damaging oral bacteria depend on sugar to eat, and if they can’t eat, they can’t produce acid. So cut down your sugar intake. You don’t have to cut carbs completely: bacteria can break down complex carbohydrates, but it’s harder and less efficient, so you won’t experience as much decay. It’s also important to stay hydrated: saliva is your body’s natural antibacterial wash. If you’re dehydrated or have dry mouth because of medications, bacteria will thrive. We can help you understand causes of dry mouth and overcome them.
Oral bacteria clings to your teeth in a coating called plaque. This concentrates the acid and helps create cavities. Brushing and flossing removes plaque and keeps it from damaging your teeth. Make sure you’re brushing at least twice a day and flossing every day. But be aware: too much toothbrushing can also damage teeth. Don’t brush with toothpaste more than twice a day.
Professional cleanings are also vital. If plaque isn’t removed, it absorbs minerals from saliva and becomes hard tartar, which you can’t remove at home. Tartar protects bacteria from saliva and toothbrushing, and it needs to be removed to avoid cavities as well as gum disease.
Personalized Care, Outstanding Results
Treating and preventing tooth decay depends on taking a personalized approach to each patient. Everyone has their own personal risks for tooth decay, and if your dentist doesn’t know you, they won’t know how to protect your teeth. At Denali Dental Care, we take the time to get to know every patient so we can provide the optimal care each patient needs. Our dentists are also highly trained in the latest techniques for cavity prevention and repair. Dr. Morrell has even been declared a Fellow by the Academy of General Dentistry, an honor that is only given to the most highly trained dentists.
If you would like to learn more about how our dentists can treat your tooth decay and prevent future decay, please call (907) 274-7691 today for an appointment at Denali Dental Care in Anchorage.