Dental cavities caused bydecay, are simply where some of our tooth structure is lost due tothe bacteria in our mouths.
There are a lot of scientific discussions that could be had to discuss this process, but essentially our mouths are full of bacteria which sits around our teeth. If cleaned regularly (brushing twice a day and flossing daily) and not allowed to build up, the bacteria will not have time to significantly damage our teeth. If we remove sugar from the equation, the bacteria will not have anything to eat, and therefore make it ineffective at working its way into the tooth. If left unchecked and given sugar, the bacteria will easily start to work its way through the tooth. The most common areas for decay to start are in the difficult to clean areas, such as between the teeth (why flossing is important), in the deep grooves on top of the teeth, and around the gum line.
The required treatment for a cavity will largely depend on how extensive the cavity is.
Our teeth are made up of essentially 3 parts:
- Enamel – The hard, protective, mineral layer on the tops of our teeth. This is typically the part we can see.
- Dentine –A more organic structure that makes up the bulk of our teeth.
- Pulp – The area right in the centre of the teeth that house the tooth’s nerve and blood supply.
When the cavity remains within the enamel, conservative approaches that aim to replace the lost mineral can be effective in certain situations when combined with good oral hygiene, such as flossing.
When the cavity extends through the enamel into the underlying dentine, there is minimal protection and the decay starts to progress deeper into the tooth at a quicker rate. In this situation, removal and replacement ofthe damaged areas of the tooth is necessary. This is usually done with a filling, however where the damage is too extensive, sometimes a crown is necessary to protect and strengthen the remaining tooth structure. The size of the cavity will dictate the size of the repair.
When the cavity and subsequently bacteria extends all the way into the pulp chamber, where the nerve and blood supply of the tooth is located, the nerve quickly dies and if left, will cause an infection. In these instances, a simple filling or even a crown is not enough. The bacteria within the pulp needs to be removed and disinfected in a treatment called a root canal, followed then by a crown.
As the size of the cavity increases, so too does the treatment required to fix it. As the treatment requirements increase, so too does the associated cost. By having regular 6-monthlycheck-ups and x-rays as needed, cavities can be identified early and treated conservatively, so that treatment costs can be kept to a minimum.
If you suspect you might have a cavity, or would like more information, please don’t hesitate to give us a call on (07) 3379 1328