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Dental cavities are nothing but holes that damage the internal structure of the teeth. These holes or caries should not be overlooked as they can conduce to tooth loss in people. Cavities formed by tooth decay needed to be filled in order to restore them to their formal glory! Well, not former glory, but at least normal function and shape.
It was Dr. G.V. Black in 1875, who first described an organized approach to dental cavities treatment. His method involved the process of removing the decayed portions of the tooth. It also included extending tooth preparation to include certain groves and surfaces, so as to protect the tooth from further decay. The procedure described by Dr. Black is still used today, especially in the case of amalgam fillings.
Cavity Detection
The dentist uses an instrument called explorer to probe the surface of the tooth for cavities. If the tooth has any damaged areas, the explorer will 'catch' it and then the tooth is said to have a cavity. Dentists also use visual examinations to detect cavities, which means by observing brown or black regions in the teeth, he knows there is a cavity. Dental X-rays help locate cavities present between the teeth or under the gum line, which are nearly impossible to detect visually.
Cavity Severity
If the cavity has not spread to the dentin or undergone cavitation, they do not need to be treated and can be healed or re-mineralized by fluoride. However, there are cases where the cavity has broken through the enamel and that needs treatment. The dentist will give you an appointment to get the procedure done.
Cavity Drilling and Cleaning
During the filling procedure, the dentist's aim is to remove decayed tooth material, and rebuild the missing tooth structure with a filling material. Depending on the severity of the cavity, the dentist may or may not begin by injecting a local anesthetic to numb that particular portion of the mouth. The dentist then cleans out the cavity with the help of a high speed dental drill. Once all the decayed portion has been drilled out, the tooth is ready to be filled.
Cavity Filling Selection
Fillings close off places for bacteria to enter, thereby preventing further decay. The type of filling required will depend in the extent of repair needed to be done to the teeth. It will also depend on the allergies a person has towards certain materials and also the cost. There are four types of fillings: gold, amalgam (silver), composite (tooth-colored fillings) resins, and porcelain fillings. The type of tooth preparation will vary with the kind of filling used.
Liners and Bases
The dentist will place a liner, such as Dycal inside the tooth cavity to reduce sensitivity. In fact, some liners are used to stimulate regeneration of the tooth pulp. For deep fillings, a base is placed in addition to the liner, so as to insulate the tooth from temperature changes conducing to pain. Glass ionomer cement and zinc phosphate cement are common bases used under dental fillings.
Tooth Filling
Once all the above necessary decisions have been made, depending on the severity, a liner is placed into the drilled cavity. If the base is required it is also placed and then the chosen filling material is layered on top of it. This process completes the rebuilding of the tooth. If the filling has been built up too high, a second appointment is needed to shave it down, thereby bringing it to a comfortable level.
Scores of people dread getting a check-up done due to the fear of pain. The best solution for such people is regular checkups. Freshly-formed cavities do not show any symptoms like pain, swelling, etc., as at the earlier stages only the enamel is damaged. It is only when the cavity eats its way into the dentin and reaches the nerve endings that pain is felt. The procedure done in the earlier stages of cavity formation is painless. So, do get your teeth regularly cleaned by the dentist to avoid a root canal treatment. Keep Smiling!