The best way to make sure you’re cavity free is to keep your twice-yearly cleanings and doctor exams. If you’re in between appointments, below are some questions and answers to help guide your oral health.
When bacteria, naturally found in our mouths, sits on the tooth or ledge, it forms a protective layer around itself called a biofilm or plaque. The bacteria in plaque eat the sugars from our food and produce an acid. If the plaque is not removed from our teeth and gums at regular intervals, this acid byproduct eats away at the enamel, softening it. If this continues over time, then the enamel gets too weak and breaks open.It is now a cavity. Once the enamel is broken, bacteria can enter the inside of the tooth, called the dentin. Dentin is much softer than enamel (the hardest substance in our bodies, harder even than bone) and is destroyed at a faster rate than the enamel, causing the cavity to grow at a faster rate.
Most people have had – or at least heard of – a dental filling. A filling is needed when there is missing tooth structure because of a cavity or broken tooth, but there is enough healthy tooth remaining to protect the filling.
Anesthetic is used to ensure patient comfort and then the decayed part of the tooth is removed. When only clean and healthy tooth structure is remaining, a tooth-colored “resin” filling is placed into the space. Then the filling is smoothed, and the bite is adjusted so that it is comfortable.
Everyone knows to brush and floss to keep our teeth healthy and avoid cavities, but there is actually more to it than just brushing and flossing. Even with regular brushing and flossing, many people still develop cavities. Bacteria in your mouth, frequent snacking, dry mouth and sipping sugary drinks also can increase your risk of cavities. To avoid developing cavities and treat existing cavities before they affect deeper layers of your teeth, the best defense is regular dental examinations. Working together with your dentist, you can determine your best strategies to avoid cavities and ensure good oral health. Another way to decrease your risk of developing cavities is brushing with fluoride toothpaste. Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral that strengthens teeth and can reverse tooth damage. If you develop cavities frequently, you can even consider fluoride treatments, which can be administered at home or in our office.
When more than 50% of the tooth structure is missing due to cavity, fracture or other damage, then a crown is recommended. A crown provides the tooth with 360-degree coverage and protects the underlying tooth and filling (often called a build up or core).
Another time a crown may be recommended is after a root canal has been completed on the tooth. During a root canal, the nerve and blood supply that runs through the center of the root is removed, cleaned, and sealed with a filling down in the canal. These teeth often become more fragile due to the decrease of blood-provided nutrients. By having a crown placed, it adds extra strength to the tooth.
At Autumn Dental in Hendersonville, we have the capability to custom-make the crowns in our office. We use a digital scanner to create a digital model after the tooth is prepped for the crown by the dentist. This enables the dentist to design the crown for that tooth. This also enables us to place the crown the same day, instead of placing a temporary and having the patient return in 2 weeks to deliver the crown.
No goopy impression is needed, no plastic breakable temporary crown to deal with – just a small wait while the tooth is milled and strengthened in the kiln.
A bridge is an option for replacing missing teeth when there is a tooth behind the space and in front of the space than can be used for support. The tooth in the front and the back of the space are prepared for a crown. These crowns will support the fake tooth in the middle. A bridge is cemented into place just like a single crown.
If you’re missing a tooth and have a tooth in front of and behind the missing tooth, you can replace that missing tooth with a bridge.
Caring for a filling, crown or bridge doesn’t add any extra steps to your oral health routine – just continue to brush, floss and visit Autumn Dental twice yearly!