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What is a cavity?


A cavity is a small hole that forms inside the tooth because of tooth decay. Cavities are formed when plaque buildup on the outside of the tooth combines with sugars and starches in the food you eat. This produces an acid that can eat away the enamel on your tooth. If a cavity is left untreated, it can lead to more serious oral health problems. Cavities can be prevented by remembering to brush your teeth at least two times a day and floss between teeth at least once.


What causes cavities?


Certain types of bacteria live in our mouths. When these bacteria come into contact with sugary foods left behind on our teeth after eating, acids are produced. These acids attack the enamel on the exterior of the teeth, eventually eating through the enamel and creating holes in the teeth, which we call cavities.


What is a filling?


A filling is a synthetic material that your dentist uses to fill a cavity after all of the tooth decay has been removed. Fillings do not generally hurt because your dentist will numb your mouth with an anesthetic. Fillings are made from a variety of different materials, including composites, gold, or ceramic. If you need a filling, be sure to talk to your doctor about what type is best for you and your teeth.


My tooth doesn’t hurt, why do I need a filling?


Why do I need a filling if my tooth doesn’t hurt? Maintaining teeth is similar to maintaining a car engine. If you waited until your car engine showed symptoms (i.e. seized up) to change the oil, it would be a lot more time consuming and expensive to fix than if you took preventative action and actually performed routine maintenance. The same is true for teeth. if you wait until they hurt then it is usually far more difficult and expensive to fix them than if you fix them as soon as a problem is detected. This is why dentists recommend regular check-ups.


When does a cavity hurt? 


It isdifficult to predict how long it will take a small cavity to go from just starting out to needing a root canal. Cavities progress at different speeds depending on diet, oral hygiene, and saliva composition and amount. Some may progress to tooth ache in just a few months and some may take years. Therefore there is no way to say this tooth has a cavity but won’t need a filling until such and such date.


When do we see cavities without an x-ray?


The short answer is only when they are really big. Your dentist can probably see visual clues of cavity presence before a lay person because he or she looks at cavities all day every day. However, even your dentist cannot see many cavities visually until they are pretty large.


So next time your dentist tells you you need a filling, remember this article. I know the natural reaction is to think, “Yeah right, my tooth doesn’t hurt. This dentist just wants to make money off me.” Try to remember this article. The dentist actually makes a lot more money, if he or she lets you wait until it hurts. A root canal, build-up, and crown cost a lot more than a filling. So if your dentist brings up your cavities early before they hurt; he or she probably has your best interests at heart.


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