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About Cavities and Fillings

A cavity can be a pain - literally! Make sure you practice proper oral hygiene and have regular dental check-ups to avoid cavities.

A cavity can be a pain – literally! Make sure you practice proper oral hygiene and have regular dental check-ups to avoid cavities.

It’s news we never like to hear during a dental visit: “You have a cavity.” But while we always want to do everything we can to prevent cavities, there’s a lot we can do to restore your teeth today if one develops, and that goes well beyond the metal fillings of yesteryear.

What is a Cavity?

The simplest explanation is that a cavity is a hole that develops in a tooth, opening it up to further damage and decay. But to understand cavities, it’s helpful to know how and why they develop.

We talk a lot about brushing and flossing to get rid of bacteria in your mouth, and it’s because that bacteria, when allowed to stay and multiply, can cause significant damage to your teeth and your gums. Bacteria can irritate and inflame gums, potentially leading to periodontal disease, and the acids produced by those bacteria can damage the enamel on your teeth as well, slowly wearing their way to a cavity. Once a cavity develops, it can’t heal on its own, and if it isn’t treated it will continue to worsen. That can lead to nerve damage, and the need for a root canal.

What We Can Do to Repair a Tooth with a Cavity

If West Meade Dental finds a cavity during a checkup, we’ll recommend immediate treatment to halt the damage. Depending on how significant your tooth decay is, that can range from a filling to a porcelain crown.

In most cases, if you’re keeping up with regular dental visits, we’ll be able to catch a cavity before more involved treatment is necessary, and we’ll recommend a filling that repairs the tooth aesthetically and functionally.

At West Meade Dental, we use tooth-colored fillings that restore your bite and protect the tooth’s nerves from further damage, but also look and feel just like the rest of your teeth. It’s a big difference from the highly noticeable gold alloy we were stuck with in decades past.

Preventing Cavities

If you do develop a cavity, West Meade Dental can help — but preventing a cavity in the first place is always our first hope. That’s why we recommend diligent oral care at home and regular visits to our office for cleanings and checkups (the frequency of recommended visits depends on your individual oral health, but in most cases, it’s every six months).

In between cleanings and checkups, you can do a lot to prevent cavities. Eating a balanced diet is important, as is following good oral health practices between meals. Rinsing with water after eating and drinking — particularly if you’ve having acidic or sugary food and drink — is always a good practice. And your daily tooth care routine should include flossing once a day, and brushing twice, using a soft-bristled brush and ADA-approved toothpaste.

To take a step further toward prevention, West Meade Dental can apply a dental sealant to coat your molars, which acts as a long-term barrier to keep bacteria from lodging and multiplying between your teeth and leading to tooth decay.

Do you have any questions about cavities or general oral health? We’re always glad to help our patients. Just give West Meade Dental a call!

What is a Root Canal?

I Need a Root Canal?!?

If you’ve been told that a root canal is in your future, fear not.  Take solace in knowing that you are not alone.  Millions of teeth are treated and saved each year with root canal treatment.  Most of the time, a root canal is a relatively simple procedure with little or no discomfort involved; it generally involves one or two visits to your dentist’s office.  Best of all, the procedure can save your tooth and your smile.

To best understand a root canal procedure, it helps to have a basic understanding of the anatomy of the tooth.  Inside your tooth, under the white enamel and dentin (another hard layer), is a soft tissue called the pulp.  The pulp is home to blood vessels, nerves and connective tissue; it helps to grow the root of your tooth during development.  A fully developed tooth can survive without the pulp because the tooth itself will continue to be nourished by the tissues surrounding it.

Root canals have been unfairly used as a way to scare patients away from good oral care. If the dentist says you need one, they are simply trying to save a tooth.

Root canals have been unfairly used as a way to scare patients away from good oral care. If the dentist says you need one, they are simply trying to save a tooth.

A root canal treats the inside of the tooth and is necessary when the nerve of the tooth becomes infected or the pulp becomes inflamed or damaged.  The inflammation or infection can stem from a variety of causes: decay, repeated dental procedures on the same tooth, faulty crowns, and/or a crack or chip in the tooth.  In addition, trauma to a tooth may also cause pulp damage even if the tooth has no visible chips or cracks.  If the inflammation or infection is left untreated, it can cause severe pain and/or lead to an abscessed tooth (a pus-filled pocket that occurs at the end of the roots of the tooth).

During the actual root canal procedure itself, the inflamed or damaged pulp is removed and the inside of the tooth is cleaned thoroughly before being disinfected.  The tooth is then filled and sealed.  Afterwards, the tooth is restored with a crown or filling for additional protection.  After the entire process is completed, the tooth continues to function much like any other tooth in your mouth.

This process helps you maintain your natural smile, allows you to continue eating the foods you love, and limits the need for ongoing dental work.  With proper care, most teeth that have undergone a root canal can last as long as the other natural teeth in your mouth.  Root canal procedures have the reputation of being painful.  Most patients report that the procedure itself isn’t anymore painful than getting a filling.  The actual discomfort comes during the period before the individual decides to call the dentist.  So what are you waiting for?  Call to make your appointment today!

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