A dental cavity, or tooth decay, is a hole in a tooth that develops when acid erodes the enamel. Although they often start small, cavities become bigger when left untreated, leading to more invasive dental issues. Complications from cavities may cause toothaches, infections and can result in extractions.
Tooth decay is the most prevalent oral health problem in Australia. It’s common for adults and children to have dental caries. According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), less than 11% of adults had no dental decay in their permanent teeth.
What Causes Tooth Decay?
The primary cause of tooth decay is plaque. As plaque accumulates in the mouth, it sticks to the teeth, slowly eroding enamel. Since enamel is the main protective layer over your teeth, a constant buildup of plaque can weaken and decay the teeth over time.
Plaque build-up occurs naturally, but certain factors accelerate the process, increasing the risk of decay, such as:
- Consuming sugary and acidic foods and drinks
- Poor oral hygiene habits
- Not absorbing enough fluoride
- Having a dry mouth
- Eating disorders
- Acid reflux
- Some medications
Tooth Decay Symptoms
Symptoms of mild tooth decay might not be apparent immediately. Cavities are more common in the molars, so patients don’t always detect them. The main symptoms to look out for include:
- Bad breath or taste in the mouth
- Bleeding gums
- Tooth sensitivity
- Tooth or gum discomfort
- Visible holes in the teeth
Fortunately, tooth decay is treatable. If you catch it early enough, proper dental care can restore your tooth. At No Gaps Dental, we provide a range of cavity treatments, from dental fillings to dental crowns to onlays and inlays. Dental procedures are recommended after an initial consultation and are tailored to the individual.
How to Fix a Tooth Cavity: Fluoride Treatment
If your tooth cavity is in the early stages, your dentist may recommend a fluoride treatment. Fluoride increases the tooth’s resistance to acid attacks from plaque, bacteria and sugars, protecting your teeth from future damage while reversing early decay.
Fluoride helps to repair your tooth enamel by restoring lost phosphate and calcium, which are minerals in your saliva. Depending on your oral health (if you have weak teeth), your dentist might recommend receiving a professional fluoride every six to twelve months. This will treat existing cavities and prevent the formation of new ones.
How to Fix a Tooth Cavity: Tooth Fillings
When a cavity has progressed too far for reversal, your dentist will need to use a tooth filling. One of the most effective methods of treating a small cavity is using composite fillings. These modern dental fillings offer more aesthetically pleasing results than the previously popular silver amalgam materials.
At No Gaps Dental, we provide composite fillings that can be shaped and coloured to match your existing teeth. The resin is malleable, so it can be shaped to create a perfect bite alignment.
Composite resin tooth fillings are completely metal-free, so there’s no need to worry about mercury content. Other benefits of composite fillings are a less invasive filling technique and reduced tooth sensitivity after the procedure.
If the filling is large and only a little of the original tooth remains, a dental crown can help preserve the structure and create a more natural-looking tooth.
How to Fix a Tooth Cavity: Dental Crowns
Dental crowns are an excellent solution for severe cases of decay. These are tooth-shaped caps that fit over the damaged tooth. A dental crown can protect the tooth from further decay.
Traditionally, fitting dental crowns was a multi-step process that required an appointment for taking impressions and another appointment two weeks later for placing the custom crown. Traditional dental crowns were often made using different types of metal. While this gave them durability, the metal components were sometimes visible, particularly along the gumline. It also made dental crowns unsuitable for patients with metal allergies.
At No Gaps Dental, we are proud to offer high-quality, same-day dental crowns. Using state-of-the-art scanning, designing, and fabrication technology, we can complete the entire dental crown procedure in a single visit.
Using computer-aided technology (CAD/CAM), we can design and fabricate a single dental crown or a full set of custom dental crowns onsite.
Each dental crown is milled onsite from a single block of ceramic. The dental crown fabrication process takes as little as 15 minutes. Our dentists then shape and colour the dental crown so it looks like your natural teeth and you can bite down comfortably. With regular checkups and good oral hygiene habits, you can expect your CEREC dental crown to last up to 15 years.
How to Fix a Tooth Cavity: Onlays and Inlays
When tooth decay is severe, your dentist may need to use an onlay or an inlay to fix the tooth cavity.
Inlays fill the areas between the cusps of your teeth and are used when the cavity is too large for a traditional filling. The inlay is a single piece that is bonded to the tooth using cement.
An onlay offers more coverage and support than an inlay but less than a dental crown.
The onlay is pre-moulded and fits in the tooth’s grooves, covering the cusps. The onlay is bonded to the tooth using cement.
Preventing Tooth Decay
At No Gaps Dental, we offer composite fillings and CEREC crowns for restoring decayed teeth. To catch cavities in their early stages when they are still reversible, it’s important to attend regular check-ups with your dentist. Book an appointment at one of our 15 locations across New South Wales or call us on (02) 8806 0227. for a preventative dentistry examination.
Note: Any surgical or invasive procedure carries risks.