Why You Should Take Care Of Cavities Right Away

By Dr. Christopher Li, DDS

December 13, 2022

cavities, dental checkup, dental cleanings, fillings, tooth decay

Do you know why you should take care of cavities right away? Many people think of cavities as little holes in their teeth. They also correctly assume that because almost all adults have at least one untreated cavity, they must have at least one in their mouth. However, just because cavities are small and common and may not be causing you any pain, doesn’t mean that it is okay to ignore them. When they are left to their own devices, cavities become more and more problematic.

It is only a matter of time before they lead to serious and often painful problems with your teeth. It is important to get a regular check for cavities during your dental cleanings and act on any cavities that your dentist finds. Here’s what you need to know about cavities and what happens if you don’t get them filled.

What Are Cavities?

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We’ve heard about cavities since we were small, but what exactly are they? Our teeth look like solid, white structures. Kind of like bone. But they are actually made up of many different layers. The white outer layer, called enamel, is tough. Beneath that are softer layers, from yellow dentin down to the cementum and pulp. Enamel protects the rest of the tooth from exposure to the outside world and keeps it safe from bacteria, injury and more. The problem is that enamel can wear down.

Enamel can start to wear away based on exposure to certain bacteria in the mouth, grinding or damage, acidic foods, and much more. When all of the enamel wears away, you have a cavity. This is also known as tooth decay, as the layers of your teeth are literally being destroyed. In the cavity spot, there is no more enamel to protect dentin and the other layers of the teeth. From here, decay speeds up. Dentin is made of microscopic holes that allow bacteria in. It also has nerves that may begin to feel pain from exposure to cold or other sensations.

Why Do Cavities Need To Be Filled?

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Once you understand what cavities are, it is easy to understand why they need to be filled. Without the protection of enamel, your teeth are vulnerable. Filling cavities blocks the dentin and other sensitive parts of the tooth from the outside world, relieving pain, preventing infection, and preventing further decay of your tooth.

There are different kinds of fillings, each of which is used in different circumstances. Filling options include:

  • Composite resins: For small and medium-sized cavities, composite resin is usually the first choice. It lasts for up to ten years and it keeps the natural look of the tooth.
  • Inlays: Very large cavities and severe tooth decay may require inlays. Using a special mold, your dentist shapes the inlay to the exact shape of your tooth. They then place the inlay into the tooth and secure it.
  • Onlays: When there is surface and cusp damage from the cavity, then your dentist may recommend an onlay. These are often noticeable areas of the tooth so you want a high-quality onlay that will look natural.
  • Amalgams: You may have some old amalgams in your mouth; however, they are no longer used in modern dentistry as they can be unsafe and are very noticeable.

When issues from cavities become more severe, you may need entirely different solutions, including replacing the affected tooth altogether.

What Happens If Cavities Don’t Get Filled?

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Remember that cavities are tooth decay. If you don’t get them filled, the decay progresses. Your tooth will continue to break down in your mouth. This may lead to very serious tooth problems, which require more serious treatments in order to rescue the tooth, or entirely remove the infected tooth from your mouth. Some of the procedures that you might need to undergo if you leave a cavity without treatment include root canals and tooth replacement.

Why Is There Confusion About Cavities?

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You may know someone who was told that they had a cavity many years ago, but nothing really came of the issue. Sometimes these stories convince people that cavities can heal on their own or that cavities don’t really matter. Actually, it’s pretty easy to clear up this confusion.

Firstly, your genetics, your saliva, your brushing habits and what you eat all play a part in how a cavity forms and progresses. Those with lucky genetics or who eat low-carb diets may find that their cavities take a very long time to form, and longer still to worsen. If they are told they have a cavity but even years later have not developed pain, they just may be protected by their genetics and their lifestyle. Eventually however, the cavity will cause more serious problems.

Sometimes there is confusion about what a dentist tells a patient. Cavities are the complete loss of enamel, but that doesn’t happen overnight. Dentists can see spots where you are losing enamel and about to form a cavity. But as long as there is still some enamel left, doing things like brushing with fluoride toothpaste can re-mineralize the spot. You can fix the issue before the actual cavity forms and your dentist can tell you how.

Are Lifestyle Changes Enough?

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No. Once you have a cavity, you will need to get it filled or fixed. While improving your brushing habits, coming in for more regular cleanings, or changing the foods that you eat can all prevent future cavities and promote better oral health overall, they cannot fix a cavity that you currently have.

Things that you can do to prevent future problems with cavities include:

  • Brush according to your dentist’s instructions, including using fluoride toothpaste
  • Limit your sugary, starchy, and acidic foods, as they can all impact dental health
  • Limit how long your teeth are exposed to these foods by brushing after meals
  • Get regular cleanings from your dental hygienist

Choose Li Family Dental To Take Care Of Cavities Right Away

We can help you understand cavities, assess whether you have one, and provide you with the cavity treatment that you need to restore the health of your teeth. Give us a call at 416-232-2033 or request an appointment by clicking here.

Dr. Christopher Li, DDS

About the author

Dr. Christopher Li; Dr. Chris, as he is affectionately known, is a licensed dentist with over 20 years of experience. His caring personality makes even the most tentative person at ease. Patients are constantly commenting about how Dr. Chris is incredible at delivering pain-free freezing, and how he has an amazing chair-side manner.

Dr. Chris and his team have built an exceptional dental clinic serving The Queensway, Etobicoke, Toronto and surrounding areas.

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