Have you been falling back on your dental check-ups and beginning to notice stains on your teeth and mild pain? You probably have developed dental caries, which left untreated can cause serious damage to your teeth. The earlier you visit your dentist the higher the chances of saving yourself a lot of unnecessary pain and discomfort.
Dental hygiene practices usually manage to keep your teeth healthy. But there is no harm in going to your dentist at periodic intervals. Usually these casual check-ups reveal the beginning stages of dental caries and can be fixed with a simple filling. However, if you don’t treat the caries at this early stage, you may need more complicated procedures that will need several sessions.
A dental cavity is formed when the acid produced by the bacteria contained in dental plaque starts eating through the hard tooth enamel and reaches the softer portion under the tooth called ‘dentin’. Once the dentin is infected, there is a chance of forming an abscess, which can only be treated with a root canal procedure or the tooth may have to be extracted.
There are three broad methods of treating dental cavities depending on the severity.
2. Filling and placing a crown
3. Root Canal Therapy
If the tooth is only slightly stained with black or white spots, the dentist would opt to clean it thoroughly with a dental hand-piece and then fill up the cavity with a very soft and pliable filling material. The filling is spread out evenly to cover the problem areas of the tooth and then a curing light is shone on it to harden the substance. Within 20 to 30 seconds, the light reacts with the filling material and makes it very hard.
If there is sufficient damage to the tooth and large metal fillings had to be used to save the tooth, then the dentist would advise a crown. For this, the tooth would be prepared and shaped to be able to accept a crown. Then an impression is taken to build a model of the tooth on which the crown will be made.
A crown could be made entirely of metal or entirely of ceramic, and in some cases a combination of both ceramic and metal. Once the crown is ready to be placed, the dentist uses dental cement to fix it onto the prepared tooth. The final outcome is a tooth that looks and feels like your natural tooth!
Although the term ‘root canal therapy’ brings up horrifying images of drills and loud noises, it is actually a very gentle way of cleaning the canal and the patient is sufficiently anaesthetised throughout the procedure. The bacteria in the canal is cleaned out using sequential files and then filled with a bio-inert material to protect the tooth from fracture. Additional support is given with a glass fibre pin to offer support to the crown that will be placed on the tooth.
With all the advances in dental technology, dentists are able to effect tooth rescue operations with ease. It is only in rare cases, where the tooth has been totally neglected that it is extracted. Go ahead and make that dreaded trip to the dentist, it may not be a painful decision after all!