There aren’t many certainties in life but it’s seeming like we might want to add cavities to the list.
For many people, brushing and flossing alone aren’t enough to keep tooth decay at bay. Regular dental checkups and cleanings help remove stubborn plaque and tartar. And avoiding frequent snacking and sugary foods can slow the growth of acid-producing bacteria that cause cavities.
All told though, recent studies estimate that almost 95% of adults will still get a cavity at some point in their lives. In today’s post we’re going to talk more about why it’s important to identify cavities as early as possible and much more.
The cavity snowball effect
Think about rolling a snowball down a hill. If you tried to stop it right there at the top of the hill before it picked up speed, it’d be easy, right? You’d just reach down and pick it up! But trying to stop that same snowball at the bottom of the hill and it’d be a different story entirely.
That’s what treating a cavity is like. When it’s still small, there are more treatment options and these treatments are generally very simple and minimally-invasive.
Dental bonding is a very simple process that applies a “filler” to gaps, chips, and cracks in your teeth. It is primarily used as a cosmetic treatment to fix minor imperfections in a person’s smile. However, in some cases it can even be used in place of a filling for smaller cavities.
Composite tooth-colored fillings are a great option for filling small cavities. These fillings require the removal of less healthy tooth structure than old-fashioned mercury amalgam (silver) fillings. Small cavities can be easily filled without damaging the rest of the tooth. In fact, composite fillings can actually strengthen the tooth and help prevent future cracks and fractures.
Smaller restorations are not only less invasive, they are more durable, too. Larger fillings are more likely to crack and may need to be replaced sooner than smaller ones.
Do you have a cavity? Ask yourself…
Are you feeling pain on one side of your mouth?
Is a tooth (or teeth) very sensitive to hot or cold temperatures?
Do you experience pain when chewing?
These are common warning signs associated with cavities and decay. But be aware — oftentimes cavities are asymptomatic and you won’t feel any pain at all.
That’s why it’s so important to see the dentist for your regular checkups!
Treating larger areas of decay
Unfortunately, when cavities aren’t treated in their early stages, the damage to the tooth can quickly become magnified. The most common result of an untreated cavity is a root canal. Root canals are required when decay advances beyond the tooth’s outer layer and invades the inner pulp chamber of the tooth. A root canal will almost always require a crown in order to fully restore the tooth’s look and function.
In some cases, particularly when a tooth has been damaged by multiple cavities, the tooth itself may need to be extracted. This is a much more advanced and invasive procedure than a simple filling, so you can see why early cavity detection is so important.
Early cavity detection is easier on your wallet, too
Let’s be honest, the potential cost of dental treatment keeps some people from visiting the dentist regularly. It’s sad but true. Here at Timberhill Dental, we work with our patients to make sure they can maximize their dental benefit allowance or figure out a way to pay for their care if they don’t have insurance.
Do you know the truth about dental insurance?
We take the time to talk with patients about their coverage and the benefits they’re entitled to. We work hard to help every patient maximize their benefits.
But insurance can still be confusing. Read our article about the 7 most common dental insurance myths.
One benefit of early cavity detection is that the earlier the cavity is detected the smaller and less expensive the restoration will be. Kind of like the old saying, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!
High-tech cavity detection
In the past, the only way for a dentist to “see” a cavity was to review x-rays or physically inspect your teeth with their eyes and dental instruments. Often cavities went undetected because they were just too small to see with these old-fashioned technologies.
Today at Timberhill Dental, we offer the latest in high-tech early cavity detection. Using a laser called the DIAGNOdent®, Dr. Black can quickly and easily see cavities that are invisible to the naked eye. Here’s how it works:
The DIAGNOdent® is shined on your teeth. You don’t feel anything because it’s just a harmless beam of focused light.
Any cavity or area of decay, no matter how small, “disrupts” the light emitted from the DIAGNOdent®.
The DIAGNOdent® measures how much light is reflected back from your teeth and its readings give Dr. Black immediate feedback if a cavity is present.
It takes hardly any time at all and is an amazing help when it comes to early cavity detection.
Early cavity detection just isn’t for adults
One of the most common misconceptions when it comes to health is that cavities in a child’s baby teeth aren’t that big of a deal. Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth. When a baby tooth is affected by a cavity, the damage can be serious.
Loss of a baby tooth due to decay before the adult tooth has started to grow in can lead to bone loss in the jaw — a process known as resorption. Lost baby teeth can also affect the alignment of neighboring adult teeth. This can lead to an eventual need for orthodontics like braces or Invisalign to correct a child’s smile down the road.
If you’re worried about cavities, schedule an appointment with Dr. Black today. He’ll help you minimize your risk of decay, examine your teeth with DIAGNOdent®, and if needed, help you choose the best option to restore the health and function of your teeth.