Cavities and Composite Fillings

The vast majority of the people you’ll meet (in Longmeadow, MA, where our practice is located, or anywhere else) have had at least one cavity at some point in their lives. In fact, a 2010 study published in the Lancet estimates that about 36% of the global population has cavities; that’s nearly 2.5 billion people!

Cavities are caused by tooth decay, which happens as the oral bacteria that live in your mouth eat the sugars found in your saliva, as well as the trace remains of food left in your mouth and on the surface of your teeth. They produce lactic acid, which corrodes the tooth’s hard tissues (the enamel, dentin, and cementum). Cavities can be painful, and if they aren’t taken care of quickly, more serious complications (including infection, tooth loss and the formation of abscesses, which are potentially deadly).

In our practice, we treat cavities with composite fillings instead of traditional silver amalgam fillings. Composite fillings are aesthetically superior to silver amalgam and have other advantages that make them a better option.

The Benefits of Composite Fillings

Composite fillings are so-called because there are made of a composite resin, a type of plastic used in a number of restorative dental procedures. Composite fillings are not new; they’ve been around for quite a while, but they could only be used in teeth near the front of the mouth. In the early days of composite fillings, the resin wasn’t durable enough to handle the rigors of grinding and chewing food (which is done primarily by the teeth at the back of the mouth). Thanks to advances in materials science, composite fillings are now able to treat cavities in any tooth, and are just as durable as silver amalgam.

Composite fillings have other advantages as well:

Less Drilling Required – Composite fillings work differently than traditional metallic fillings. Composite fillings bond with the interior of the tooth to stay in place. Metallic fillings depend on the shape of the cavity to stay in place, and this means that placement of metallic fillings often requires a lot of drilling (the removal of otherwise healthy hard tissues in your tooth) to prepare the cavity to accept the filling. Less drilling means less discomfort, and a faster filling procedure. The bond between the filling and the tooth also enhances the structural strength of the tooth.

Reduced Tooth Sensitivity – Metals conduct heat very easily; that means if your metal filling is exposed to heat (or cold), you can experience severe pain as the heat energy moves directly to through the metal filling material and into the tooth nerve (it works the same way with cold things).

Doesn’t Require the Excessive Removal of Enamel – Your enamel is the most important defensive weapon in your teeth’s arsenal; it’s a physical barrier against decay and injury. However, it doesn’t grow back if it’s destroyed or removed. Traditional fillings may require the removal of large quantities of your enamel, making your tooth much more vulnerable to infection and disease.

Superior Aesthetics – Composite resins can be formulated to match the exact shade of your tooth’s coloration. This means that a composite filling will have no impact on the appearance of your teeth or smile.

How Can I Avoid Cavities?

Of course, the best way to protect your teeth is to prevent cavities and decay from happening in the first place. If you want to avoid tooth decay, you should at the very least maintain a disciplined routine of oral hygiene at home. This means twice daily brushing, flossing, and rinsing with mouthwash to regulate your oral bacteria, remove excess sugars and food particles from your teeth’s surface, and to prevent plaque (which is oral bacteria) from becoming tartar, a substance that is harder than bone (that contributes to serious diseases such as gum disease, the leading cause of tooth loss in the US). Good oral hygiene also means  seeing your dentist twice a year for routine check-ups and cleanings. If you struggle with tooth decay, even if you’re vigilant when it comes to your oral health, your dentist can give you a fluoride treatment: a pain-and-discomfort procedure, a gel (infused with fluoride) is “painted” directly on the teeth’s surface. The fluoride strengthens enamel and makes it more resistant to decay and infection.

Have A Toothache?

You can’t “walk off” oral health problems; they only get worse the longer you put off treating them. A toothache is a sign that you might have advanced tooth decay, but it may also indicate other (in many cases, much more serious) problems.

Don’t wait another day with your pain! Dial 413-241-3995 or click here to reach our online appointment form to book your visit right now!

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