When Should a Tooth Cavity Be Filled?

Team General Dentistry

When should a cavity be filled? It’s a simple question, but the answer is a little more complex than you might think.

Cavities mean tooth decay, which is caused by bacteria from the plaque on your teeth, as well as sweet foods and drinks. Due to an improvement in oral hygiene and the use of fluoride toothpaste, cavities are less prevalent overall than in the past, yet they still occur with some frequency.  

How Do You Know You Have a Cavity?

While some cavities can be painful if the nerve in the teeth or root are harmed, most cavities initially appear as small white or brown spots on the surface of your teeth. To diagnose cavities, your dentist will simply take a look at your teeth, or view any hard-to-see cavities through x-rays, such as those between or beneath teeth or fillings. 

To prevent discomfort and damage to your teeth, twice daily brushing and flossing as well as scheduling regular dental exams and professional cleaning every six months from your dental team are key, allowing your dentist to identify any cavities or cavity risk early, and address issues quickly.

What Causes Cavities?

Cavities are caused by plaque build up, poor oral hygiene and too much sugar. All of these can cause an accumulation of bacteria that breaks down food particles and the sugar in them, causing an acid to form on your teeth’s surface. If teeth aren’t cleaned or treated, then the acid attacks the enamel coating the teeth and slowly causes destructive decay. 

Kids can be especially sensitive to tooth decay because their baby teeth enamel is more susceptible than the enamel of permanent teeth. 

When to Fill a Cavity

When white or brown spots first appear on teeth indicating the early stages of decay, brushing your teeth regularly using a fluoride treatment and receiving a fluoride treatment from your dentist might be enough to put a stop to that cavity. 

But, once a hole appears in your tooth from decay, that’s when you need a filling. Your dentist will remove decayed material and fill the hole with a synthetic resin, ceramic material, or metal. If damage is very severe, a partial or full crown could be needed; and if nerves are affected, a root canal or extraction can be necessary. 

But, through regular check-ups, your dentist can simply restore the tooth by using a filling. Don’t wait - once a cavity occurs, decay will spread until it is removed and the tooth restored. Remember, untreated cavities lead to the need for more significant restoration. 

What Kind of Fillings Are There?

Metal or amalgam fillings used to be common, but today, tooth-colored composite fillings are most recommended. The material blends in with your own tooth, is not affected by heat or cold, 

and unlike amalgam fillings, uses no mercury. In fact, many patients choose to have older amalgam fillings replaced with tooth-colored fillings.

Learn More About Fillings at Chagrin Falls Dental 

If you’re ready to learn more about preventing cavities, or need a filling, reach out to us today at Chagrin Falls Dental. We’re here to help, and look forward to hearing from you.