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Waiting to Take Care of Tooth Caries, Tooth Decay or Cavities Will Cause Bigger Problems

Here are some recommendations from San Diego dentists at Dentists Pacific Beach about taking care of tooth caries, tooth decay and tooth cavities.

If your teeth are sensitive to sweet foods or hot and cold temperatures, don’t put off a visit to your dentist and don’t want wait till the cavity gets larger. Postponing a visit to a dental office will cause bigger problems.

Dental caries is the medical term for tooth decay or cavities. They are caused by acid erosion of tooth enamel.xx

  • Between teeth
  • Around dental fillings or bridgework
  • Near the gum line

Some of the plaque bacteria convert sugar and carbohydrates (starches) in the foods we eat into acids. These acids dissolve minerals in the surface of the tooth. This erodes the enamel or creates pits in it that are too small to see at first. But they get larger over time.

The damage can occur anywhere the tooth is exposed to plaque and acid. This includes the hard outer enamel on the tooth crown or parts of the root that have been exposed because of receding gums. Once decay penetrates the protective enamel, it can enter the softer, vulnerable dentin. This is the main body of the tooth. A cavity can even penetrate the soft tooth pulp and the sensitive nerve fibers within it.

No one really knows what causes the pain people get with cavities. Theories include:

  • Inflammation caused by bacteria
  • Exposure of the root surface
  • Imbalance of fluid levels in tiny openings called tubules inside the dentin

Early caries may not have any symptoms. Later, when the decay has eaten through the enamel, the teeth may be sensitive to sweet foods or to hot and cold temperatures.

A dentist will look for dental caries at each office visit. This will be part of the exam, whether it’s a routine visit or an appointment made because of pain. The dentist will look at your teeth and will probe them with a tool called an explorer to look for pits or areas of damage. X-rays will be taken on a set schedule, or if the dentist suspects hidden caries.

The standard treatment for a cavity is to fill the tooth. First, the dentist will numb the area. Then he will remove the decayed material in the cavity and fill the cavity with a filling. Dental fillings are usually made of dental amalgam or composite resin. Gold inlay may be used if greater strength is needed, but this is more expensive.

If a cavity is large, the remaining tooth may not be able to support the amount of filling material that would be needed to repair it. In this case, the dentist will remove the decay, fill the cavity, and cover the tooth with an artificial crown.

Sometimes the part of the tooth you can see remains relatively intact, but there is damage inside the tooth. In these cases, the dentist may refer you to a dental specialist called an endodontist for root canal treatment. The endodontist removes the tooth’s pulp and replaces it with an inert material. In most cases, after a root canal treatment, the tooth’s natural crown will need to be replaced with an artificial crown.

If you have discomfort, pain or are sensitive to sweet foods or to hot and cold temperatures, go see your San Diego dentists immediately before the problem gets worse.