If you’ve experienced a cavity before, then chances are that you’re familiar with the toothache that often accompanies it. Caused by tooth decay, which is a bacterial infection, cavities are small holes that form in a tooth’s main structure, called dentin. When infected, dentin sends pain signals to the nerves at the center of the tooth, in a chamber called the pulp, alerting the patient of dental trouble. In most cases, a toothache should prompt you to seek immediate professional care, and your dentist can treat the cavity and restore your tooth to good health. If allowed to run rampant, however, then a cavity can consume the entire tooth, potentially causing tooth loss.
Hungry, Hungry Tooth Decay
Despite the fact that over 90% of adults experience permanent tooth decay by the age of 65, teeth are designed to protect themselves against the forces that lead to infection. Their protective coating, called tooth enamel, is the most resilient substance that the body produces. It’s also the most mineralized, comprised almost entirely of specially-formed calcium and phosphate crystals. In the midst of poor oral hygiene, certain oral bacteria can convert sugar and carbohydrates into enough acid to deplete teeth of minerals and weaken their protective enamel. Once enamel is compromised, the bacteria can slip past it and settle into the tooth’s dentin, forming cavities as the infection gains a foothold and spreads.
Restore or Replace Infected Teeth
When detected early, cavities are often successfully treated with a tooth-colored dental filling. If infection invades the tooth’s pulp, then a root canal procedure can remove the infected tissue, seal the tooth’s roots, and halt the infection from spreading to nearby tissues. Afterwards, a dental crown can protect the tooth from further damage and restore its ability to bite and chew effectively. In extreme cases, if a tooth must be removed due to severe infection, we may recommend replacing the extracted tooth with a dental implant, which replaces the lost tooth’s root, providing improved stability, function, and longevity for the replacement dental crown.