What are Cavities?

Dental caries is the medical term for “cavity/tooth decay.” A cavity is a hole in the tooth that can get larger over time. The bacteria that naturally inhabit our mouths produce acids. When plaque develops on the tooth, the bacteria cling to the tooth within the plaque and the acid begins to destroy the outer most layer of the tooth called enamel. If left untreated the hole extends into the softer inner portion of the tooth called the dentin. Once the dentin is infected the only way to stop the destructive process of dental caries is to remove the soft dentin, clean the area and seal it with a dental restoration. Diet, home care and heredity all play a role in the development of dental caries. Dental caries, cavities, typically do not cause “pain/discomfort” when small, however if untreated, can destroy the tooth and affect the nerve within the tooth causing pain, possible tooth necrosis and result in the need for a root canal treatment. Because most cavities develop beneath the tooth, destroying the dentin while leaving the outer portion of the tooth intact, only the dentist can definitively diagnose that you have a cavity. Cavities are most commonly found in the grooves of teeth and in between teeth (found using radiographs). To help prevent cavities from forming, good oral hygiene must be maintained, including regular brushing and flossing. It is also very important to have regular professional cleanings.

What is done during Restorative Procedures?

During a typical restorative procedure the following steps are usually implemented:

  1. The area is anesthetised with a local injection;
  2. The tooth/teeth with the carious lesions are isolated to allow a clean and visible field;
  3. The cavity is exposed and cleaned with various methods;
  4. Various restorative materials, typically composite (white filling material) is used to seal the tooth and restore its natural anatomy.