What Causes Cavities

Your teeth are the strongest material in your body. They are resilient against trauma and wear, capable even of compressing and flexing. But they do have one serious weakness: they are vulnerable to acid.

Acid leaches minerals from your teeth, weakening them. Over time, acid can even create pits in your teeth, and these pits can grow into holes in your teeth that we call cavities. Unfortunately, many bacteria in your mouth excrete acid, especially after consuming sugar. When left on your teeth for too long, the acid from bacteria creates cavities in your teeth.

Consequences of Cavities

Once you have cavities in your teeth, they can grow much more quickly than they took to form at first. That’s because the small hole gives bacteria a place to shelter from your saliva (which can kill them). It also traps food for them to eat. And it concentrates the acid they excrete, which accelerates the damage it causes.

Left untreated, cavities can cause:

  • Toothaches
  • Chipped, cracked, or broken teeth
  • Infected teeth
  • Tooth loss
  • Spread of infection to blood, heart, or brain

Toothaches usually start when a cavity gets close to the living part of the tooth, called the pulp. Chemicals seep through the weakened part of the tooth to irritate the pulp. The thin part of the tooth might not protect the pulp from pressure. And the tooth has lost insulation, which can make it hurt when exposed to heat or cold.

A cavity also weakens a tooth, making it more likely to chip, crack, or break. When the bacteria break through to the pulp, they infect the tooth. Sometimes this means the tooth has to be extracted. Other times, Torrance dentist Dr. Webber can restore the tooth with root canal therapy. If an infection doesn’t get treated soon enough, it can spread to other parts of the body, which can be deadly.

Benefits of Tooth-Colored Fillings

A filling is the recommended treatment for a minor cavity. It fills up the hole so bacteria and food don’t go in there. This keeps the cavity from growing and can stop toothaches.

In the past, fillings were either gold or what is called metal amalgam. Metal amalgam is a mix of powdered metal held together with mercury. Compared to these filling options, tooth-colored fillings are:

  • More attractive
  • At least as durable when used properly
  • Less likely to cause cracking
  • Better at strengthening teeth
  • Better insulators
  • Free of toxic metals like mercury

With gold or metal amalgam, people see that you’ve had cavities. Metal amalgam is especially bad because the silver fillings can rust and turn black, making them look as bad as cavities. Metal amalgam also expands when it heats and contracts when it cools. This can contribute to cracking around the filling. They can weaken the tooth, while tooth-colored fillings don’t weaken a tooth and can sometimes even strengthen it. Metal conducts heat, which means that a metal filling can make your tooth sensitive to hot or cold foods and beverages.

Finally, tooth-colored fillings are free from toxic metals like mercury, which can lead to nerve damage and other effects. We know mercury doesn’t stay in fillings, but can increase the mercury level throughout the body.

Two Types of Tooth-Colored Fillings

One secret to the success of tooth-colored fillings is that they aren’t all the same. For small cavities, we use a resin tooth-colored filling. This starts out like a soft putty that we can shape into a small cavity. Then we harden it with a special light so it protects the tooth.

For large cavities, we use ceramic fillings. These are made of advanced materials that are even stronger than your tooth enamel. They not only fill the cavity, they hold the tooth together, making it almost as strong as it was before the cavity. These fillings aren’t just beautiful, they’re extremely durable, with most lasting for decades.

Do You Need a Filling in Torrance, CA?

If you have one or more cavities that need filling, Torrance, CA dentist Dr. Webber can help. He offers two types of tooth-colored fillings to help you get the best treatment no matter the size of your cavity. To learn more about this attractive and successful approach to fillings, please call (310) 534-3477 today for an appointment at Simply Smiles in Torrance, CA.