Dental cavities are holes in teeth caused by tooth decay. Cavities are also referred to as caries.
How does a cavity form?
Two main factors contribute to tooth decay — bacteria and a diet high in sugar and starch. There are over 500 different types of bacteria that are normally present in the mouth. These bacteria combine with food and saliva to form a sticky substance called plaque that attaches to teeth. Foods rich in starches add to the stickiness of the plaque, which begins to get hard if it remains on the teeth after a couple of days and turns into tartar or calculus. Bacteria in the plaque convert sugar into acid that dissolves the tooth structure causing holes, or cavities.
The parts of teeth that are most vulnerable to tooth decay are areas where plaque can accumulate most easily. Plaque tends to settle into the pits and fissures in the tops of teeth, into the areas in between the teeth, and next to the gum line. Where there is plaque, there are bacteria and acid, and eventually destruction of the tooth surface. The cavity starts in the outer layer of the tooth (enamel) and as it gets deeper, penetrates into the softer inner layer of the tooth (dentin.) Typically, it isn’t until the decay reaches the dentin that a person will start to notice signs and symptoms of the cavity.
What risk factors contribute to tooth decay?
Saliva helps prevent plaque from attaching to teeth and helps wash away and digest food particles. A low salivary flow or dry mouth leaves the teeth more vulnerable to tooth decay. Genetic factors that affect tooth decay are tooth size and shape, thickness of enamel, tooth position, tooth eruption time and sequence, and the bite.
What is a Composite Resin (White Filling)?
A composite filling is a tooth-colored plastic and glass mixture used to restore decayed teeth. Composites are also used for cosmetic improvements of the smile by changing the color of the teeth or reshaping disfigured teeth.
How is a composite placed?
Following preparation, the dentist places the composite in layers, typically using a light specialized to harden each layer. When the process is finished, the dentist will shape the composite to fit the tooth. The dentist then polishes the composite to prevent staining and early wear.
What are the advantages of composites?
Aesthetics are the main advantage of composites, since dentists can blend shades to create a color nearly identical to that of the actual tooth. Composites bond to the tooth to support the remaining tooth structure, which helps to prevent breakage and insulate the tooth from excessive temperature changes.