Tooth decay, also known as dental caries, or cavities, is one of the most common diseases to affect mankind. Our mouths contain many different kinds of bacteria. One type of bacteria lives on teeth, and is responsible for causing decay.
When we eat starchy or sugary foods, and don’t brush or rinse soon after, the bacteria on our teeth begin to eat that sugar. When they digest the sugar, the bacteria produce an acid that can dissolve the enamel of our teeth, and form holes, or cavities. Depending on the size and location of the holes, they may be visible just by looking at the teeth, or they may only be detectable by dental x-rays.
The most basic method of treating tooth decay is with a dental filling. First, the dentist will usually administer a local anesthetic to make you more comfortable during the procedure. After you are “numb,” the dentist will use a dental handpiece, or drill, to remove diseased areas of the tooth, and shape the tooth so that is will hold a filling. Finally a filling material is placed in the prepared tooth, and shaped to provide comfort, support and function.
There are several types of materials used to fill teeth. A commonly used material is known as dental composite. This material is available in a variety of shades so that is can visually blend in to the surrounding natural tooth structure. Composite is soft when placed in the tooth and hardened using a specially designed ultraviolet light. A composite filling will provide aesthetic results, strength, and durability.
It is fairly common for patients to feel some sensitivity after the filling is completed. This sensitivity may last for several weeks.