Plaque, tartar, tooth enamel, amalgam fillings, composite fillings…there’s a lot of terms you’ll hear if you get a cavity. How do you know you have a cavity and what needs to be done about it?
How do you know you have a cavity?
Some people don’t even know they have a cavity in their tooth until they visit their dentist. Depending on the size and location of the cavity, you may not be able to see or feel it.
Others may visit specifically because they suspect they have a cavity. Signs include:
- Sudden sharp tooth pain
- Increased tooth sensitivity
- Pain when you bite or chew
- Pain when you eat or drink sweet, hot, or cold foods or beverages
- Unusual tooth staining – it can be black, brown or white.
- Holes in your teeth
How do I Get A Cavity?
Cavities form when acids weaken your tooth enamel. Acids are caused by eating sugary food or even acidic drinks like coffee. Regular brushing and flossing can help wash the acid away, protecting your tooth enamel. For more information on how cavities form, read our blog: The Truth Behind How Sugars Affect Your Teeth and Overall Health.
If you think you have a cavity, don’t hold off on a visit to the family dental clinic. If the cavity is caught early, your dentist may be able to reduce the damage with a simple fluoride treatment.
If the cavity has progressed, you are feeling pain, or can see a hole in your teeth, you will probably need treatment like a filling or crown.
What are Amalgam Fillings?
Amalgam fillings are the most commonly recommended treatment for a cavity.
“Amalgam” means a mixture or a blend. Amalgam fillings are made from a mixture of metals, such as copper, silver, mercury or zinc. Some people also call them “silver” fillings due to their shinier colour. They are the most common type of filling as they are relatively inexpensive. Unlike some treatments for tooth cavities, an amalgam filling can be placed in one treatment.
When properly treated and cared for properly, amalgam fillings can last up to 15 years.
Some people are also nervous about metal fillings as they contain mercury which can be harmful to your health. However, the Canadian Dental Association notes that metal fillings have been used as a treatment for over 150 years and do not cause illness.
Composite vs. Amalgam Fillings
If you don’t like the noticeable colour of an amalgam filling – or the metals and mercury – you may choose a composite filling, or “white filling”.
Unlike amalgam fillings, composite fillings are tooth-coloured, so they’re not as easy to spot in your mouth. Instead of metal, composite fillings are made of plastic or resin.
They are also more expensive, may break more easily and may not last as long as amalgam fillings.
Like amalgam fillings, however, composite fillings can be placed in a single treatment.
Other treatments besides amalgam fillings
Porcelain (ceramic) crowns and gold fillings are additional cavity treatment options. Both require at least two visits to the dentist. The first to make a cast of your tooth to send to a lab to form the gold filling or porcelain crown. During the second visit, the dentist places the filling or crown over the affected tooth.
Both porcelain and gold are more expensive treatments than amalgam fillings. However, they last a long time.
Practice Good Oral Hygiene and Visit your Waterdown Dentist Regularly
The best way to avoid getting a cavity is to eat foods that are good for your oral health, and practice good oral hygiene habits like brushing and flossing regularly. And, of course, visit your Waterdown dentist, Dr. Aaron Langdon, regularly for dental checkups. Contact Cranberry Hill Dentistry to make your next appointment today!
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Mayo Clinic – Cavities/tooth decay
Canadian Dental Association – Metal fillings
Canadian Dental Association – Tooth-coloured fillings