Dental cavities are some of the most common issues seen at a dental office. In fact, there are more than three million cases of cavities every year in the US alone. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 90% of adults over the age of 20 have had a cavity.
Typically, lack of proper oral hygiene is the leading cause of cavities. However, genetics, diet, and other lifestyle habits are also contributing factors.
What Are Cavities?
Cavities, also known as dental caries, are decayed portions of a tooth. A cavity develops as a small hole in the enamel–the protective layer of the tooth. You may not feel any symptoms of a cavity until it progresses. Without treatment, the cavity will burrow into your tooth’s nerves and connective tissues. This will cause you pain and discomfort until you visit your dentist.
Regular dental visits are vital in avoiding the damaging effects of cavities. Before your diagnosis, you may feel sensitivity to hot or cold food and drinks. Additionally, foods that are sweet or acidic can cause pain. If you look closely in the mirror, you may be able to see holes or pits in your tooth. Also, brown, black, or even white stains on your teeth could indicate a cavity.
The sooner that you see a dentist, the better your chances are that you will avoid significant damage. In extreme cases, it is possible to lose a tooth because of a cavity.
What is the Process?
To begin, your dentist or dental hygienist will take x-rays of your mouth to assess the damage to your tooth better. While your dentist can see a cavity with their eyes, the damage may be worse than it appears. An x-ray is necessary to get a complete understanding of the cavity. It gives your dentist the ability to make a plan of action.
Next, your dentist will give you a local anesthetic to numb the affected area. While you may feel slight pressure through the procedure, you should never feel any pain. Your dentist will ensure that you are completely numb before beginning the process.
Then, your dentist will drill into the cavity. The sound of the drill might be scary, but remember that you won’t feel any pain. Once they have dug into the cavity, your dentist will remove the decayed part of your tooth and clean it thoroughly. Cleaning and disinfecting the area will prevent infections.
Finally, your dentist will finish the process by giving you a filling. The filling restores the structure of the tooth and ensures that there will be no further decay. Your dentist may opt for a crown if the cavity is more extensive. Sometimes, a cavity will require a root canal if the infection is significant.
You should be able to return to your daily routine immediately. However, you should be careful when eating if the area is still numb.