So, your dentist says you have a cavity. Now what? It all depends how “deep” the cavity is. This is usually determined by the “bitewing” x-ray we talked about last week. I have found that the best way to explain this is as follows:
“A tooth is like a peanut M&M” – Abraham Lincoln, 1868
- Candy shell (enamel)
- Chocolate (dentin)
- Peanut (pulp chamber – where the nerve lives)
- If your cavity is in the enamel, you will likely not have severe (or any) symptoms, and a simple filling will do the trick. If it’s super early/small, the dentist may recommend waiting and watching.
- If your cavity is in dentin, you may be experiencing tooth sensitivity (to hot and/or cold and/or sweets). You definitely will require a filling. You may experience sensitivity after the placement of the filling that can sometimes last weeks!
- If your cavity is in the pulp chamber (or sometimes even very close to the chamber), I regret to inform you, you need a root canal!
Ahh, if only the world was just this simple. There are times when a cavity in the dentin when sensitivity will not subside, can potentially need a root canal! Also, if a cavity is in the pulp chamber but is so severe that the tooth is broken down to bone level, it might need to be pulled! Party time.
So now, if you do need a filling, there are essentially 2 kinds: silver and white. Silver fillings are made of “amalgam”. They have been around for years and are still approved by the American Dental Association as a filling material. White or “composite” fillings are becoming increasingly more common nowadays.
Fillings need to be checked at your checkups as they can develop cavities underneath them and at their edges. They often need to be replaced after a certain number of years.
Not to leave you on the edge of your seat but we will wait until next week to discuss root canals (and crowns!).
In the meantime, Keep Smiling 🙂
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