The ABCs of Cavities

At FlutterPop, we talk a lot about taking good care of teeth. Practicing good oral health is an important step in your body’s overall health. When teeth have problems, it’s harder to talk and chew, and infections can cause fevers and severe pain. The best way to avoid cavities is to brush twice a day, floss once a day, drink plenty of water, and visit the dentist twice a year. Read our 10 Habits of Good Tooth Care for more ways to maintain a healthy smile. 

Even with everything we know about caring for teeth, cavities do still happen. When kids get cavities, it’s often because they aren’t brushing properly, aren’t flossing, or aren’t practicing good habits. Sometimes, though, cavities occur because of genetics and tooth enamel that is more prone to decay. Your dentist can discuss the options with you if this is the case for your child.

What Are Cavities?

Cavities happen when bacteria break through the enamel to create a hole in a tooth. The cavity itself is an infection, and bacteria has now invaded areas that should have been protected. The cavity is a permanently damaged part of the tooth and will get worse if left untreated.

When a cavity first starts, there might not be any symptoms. But as it gets worse, symptoms include tooth pain, sensitivity to hot or cold food and drinks, visible holes or black spots on teeth, and pain when chewing. Most cavities can be caught right away if your child is going to the dentist once every 6 months, which makes the treatment much easier.

What is the Treatment for Cavities?

When the dentist finds a cavity, either on the tooth surface or through X-rays, he or she will schedule a follow up appointment to treat the cavity. The treatment for a cavity is to clean the affected area and then fill it with a material that restores the tooth to its original shape and function. Once a cavity has been filled, the area that was affected won’t decay any further, unless another part of the tooth develops a cavity.

Pediatric Dentists typically use nitrous oxide to get the child ready for treatment. If the cavity is new, this “laughing gas” might be the only thing the dentist uses before applying the drill. If the cavity is a little deeper, or your child isn’t responding to the gas, a shot of Novocaine may also be necessary to numb the mouth. Pediatric dentists will generally work quickly and speak to the child throughout the process to keep a calm but upbeat mood during treatment. The dentist will finish his or her work with a filling, and then it’s all done!

What Kind of Filling Will Be Used?

The two most common types of fillings are amalgam and composite. Metal, silver, gold, and even porcelain are other filling materials, but these are much more expensive, so they are not used very often. Always check with your insurance if the dentist offers a choice, as there may be coverage for one but not the other.

Amalgam is silver in color and is a combination of metals. These fillings have been in use for over 100 years, so they are known to be effective. If the filling is going into a permanent tooth, an amalgam filling will last up to 15 years. The dentist will be able to tell during checkups if the filling needs to be replaced. Because amalgams are more noticeable with their silver color, not everyone likes having them, but they are usually more affordable.

Composite fillings are made from a compound of ceramic and plastic. These are white fillings, so they blend in with the natural tooth color and are more attractive. Composite materials are flexible and reach further into the tooth, which means less drilling. While many people prefer these fillings because they aren’t noticeable after treatment, they usually need to be replaced within 7 years, which can make them less convenient. Composite materials are more expensive, but they are often still covered by insurance.

Once the treatment is over, it’s important to follow the dentist’s instructions about eating and drinking for the rest of that day. If your child’s mouth is numb, remind him or her to be careful not to bite down on the cheek or tongue. Most people can resume normal eating and drinking the same day a cavity is filled. Once it’s all over, continue practicing vigilant oral healthcare to prevent any additional cavities.

FlutterPop believes that great oral health is an important part of the whole body’s health. For more information about keeping teeth healthy, follow us on Facebook and Instagram.