Cavities start small, but without care, they can cause major problems and considerable pain. As a leading dentist in Orange County, CA, Dr. Fotinos treats cavities with state-of-the-art dental fillings, including durable, tooth-colored fillings designed to blend in with your natural teeth so the restoration is virtually undetectable.
What Causes Cavities?
Cavities occur when bacteria consume simple starches or sugars and produce an acid film that clings to teeth, softening the enamel and destroying the structure of the tooth. Initially, the damage can be superficial and easily treated, which is one primary reason why seeing the dentist every six months for a check-up is so important. Certain bacteria have been demonstrated to be significantly (orders of magnitude) higher in people who have more cavities than individuals who have minimal or no cavities throughout their lifetime. The family of Mutans Streptococci is found in much higher numbers in patients who have cavities. Left untreated, bacteria and acids begin attacking the interior structure, moving into the deeper parts of the tooth and causing considerable pain. As the hole grows, the tooth can break, abscesses may form, and the tooth may be lost.
How Are Cavities Treated?
Most cavities can be treated with dental fillings. Treatment begins with techniques to remove the decayed portion of the tooth without damaging the surrounding healthy tooth material. Special probes and dental x-rays can determine how far the cavity extends into the tooth to ensure all of the decayed material is removed. Once the decayed portion is removed, the area is carefully cleaned, and the filling material is applied and shaped, so it feels comfortable when biting or chewing.
What Are Composite or “White” Fillings?
Also called tooth-colored fillings, composite fillings are made of resins that can be tinted to match the surrounding tooth material, so they blend in and look completely natural. Composite fillings are applied in layers, and a special light is used to “cure” and harden them. Composite resins are inorganic and cannot be broken down by plaque bacteria.
This is not to say that they are stronger or less likely to need replacing. Once in place, they bond very tightly with the tooth surface to help prevent decay from forming underneath. Unlike metal amalgam fillings, tooth-colored fillings contain no mercury or other metals.
How Can I Prevent Cavities?
Brushing and flossing teeth regularly (ideally, in the morning, before bed and after meals) is very important for preventing cavities. It’s also important to have routine dental checkups every six months to look for signs of decay. Finally, avoiding sugary foods or beverages helps prevent bacterial growth that causes cavities. Limit the frequency of sugary or acidic foods in your day – More acids and more sugar mean that you are creating an environment that favors and accelerates the growth of acid producing bacteria which isn’t good.