Understanding Cavities

I have no pain with my cavities, do I need to fix them? 

Cavities don’t hurt, yet they do keep growing. In the end, cavities could lead to the need for a root canal or the removal of a tooth. 

Most cavities do not have any pain or symptoms unless the cavity reaches the middle part of a tooth where the nerve resides. When that happens, a root canal is indicated as treatment. Root canals are more expensive than fixing a cavity with a dental filling. Most of the cavities dentists diagnose can be fixed with dental fillings and prevent the need for expensive work, like root canals or even removing the tooth and replacing it with a dental implant.

For example, fixing a cavity can cost around $100-$250 

If the cavity enters the nerve space, the cost goes up with needing a root canal and a crown, and this treatment can average between $1500- $2500

If the cavity is too intense or leads to severe infection, the tooth may need not be removed, and replacement options may cost between $2,400-$5,000 or more. 

Our mouth is full of millions of bacteria and all cavities will keep growing daily. Fixing cavities is the most practical and affordable way to prevent expensive treatment. And, fixing cavities improves our oral health, which can be a big confidence booster.

progress of tooth decay

Learn more about cavities:

What are cavities?
When do I need a root canal?

Can you reverse a cavity?
Yes, small cavities can be reversed, but moderate to big cavities cannot be reversed. If the cavity has reached the dentin, the cavity cannot be reversed. 

How can small cavities be reversed?
Decay starts with a reduction in the enamel’s hard mineral content (this is called demineralization). Once the enamel is weakened enough, and the process moves into the dentin, the softer portion just under the enamel, a hole can start to form, and you have a cavity.

The demineralization of enamel is a reversible process. Enamel can be re-mineralized if the chemical and pH conditions in the mouth allow the change.

teeth with cavities nfd.

How can you change the environment of your mouth to reverse small cavities and cavities from growing? 

  • Brushing twice a day – Mechanically removes millions of bacteria.
  • Flossing daily before going to bed – Prevents bacteria from multiplying between teeth.
  • Eating foods with probiotics to deliver good, positive helpful bacteria to your mouth.
  • Avoiding a high sugar diet – sugar feeds harmful bacteria and helps them to grow.
  • Drinking lots of water, which allows you to keep your mouth moist preventing the rapid multiplication of bacteria.
  • Avoiding acidic drinks -This preserves your enamel and prevents harmful bacteria from multiplying. 

What bacteria is located in my mouth? 

Estimates of the number of bacterial species in the oral cavity vary between 500 to 650 different species. They live on the teeth and tongue, of course, but biofilms also cover the cheeks and oral mucosa.

your mouth and germs picture

The tooth under a microscope in the morning before brushing the teeth

tooth under microscope

Which supplements can you take to make teeth stronger? Are my teeth the same as bones, should I take the same supplements I take to keep my bones strong? 

The teeth and bones are very similar in their structure, but the main difference is that teeth do not regenerate themselves as bones do. When there is trauma to a tooth via a cavity or dental work, the teeth will not regenerate. That’s why it is crucial to have strong teeth.

Vitamin D helps in the absorption of calcium and phosphate in the teeth and bones. Patients deficient in vitamin D are more prone to developing cavities. 

Unfortunately, being in the sun is not enough to make vitamin D and to keep teeth strong. 

4 Vitamins and Minerals That Help Strengthen Teeth

• Calcium – Calcium is one of the most important minerals for healthy teeth because it strengthens your enamel.

• Vitamin D – Vitamin D is doubly important because not only does it boost mineral density, it also helps absorb, carry, and deposit calcium in the bones that support your teeth.

• Phosphorus

• Vitamin A

Learn more:
4 Vitamins and Minerals That Help Strengthen Teeth – Pronamel

Can I prevent the cavity from growing bigger under old dental work? 

All dental work has its lifetime and old dental fillings can become cracked, allowing bacteria to sneak underneath, which allows for the development of cavities. This type of cavity cannot be controlled, which means old dental work needs to be replaced. Often the same type of cavity can only be diagnosed by clinical examination of your dentist combined with taking X-rays. 

The picture shows old composite, white fillings with cavities underneath them.

teeth with old composite

Some cavities under fillings can only be detected with x-rays to determine how deep they are and determine whether or not they have reached the nerve of a tooth.

xray of teeth with many cavities
old silver/mercury fillings with holes

What happens if a cavity leads to an abscess, can it make me sick?

Any infection in the body is cause for alarm. An abscessed tooth represents a severe infection that is located in a part of your body that is uniquely located to spread its damage elsewhere. These are some of the potential consequences:

  • Infected gums can damage the jaw bone and cause teeth to fall out.
  • The infection can spread upward, causing a sinus infection.
  • Bacteria from the infection can spread to the heart and lead to a condition called bacterial endocarditis.
  • Abscessed teeth can cause an infection in the face and jaw called Ludwig’s angina, which can severely restrict the airways.
  • The infection can spread to the brain through blood vessels and lead to a brain abscess. In extreme cases, this can cause the patient to go into a coma.

An untreated abscess can also lead to something called sepsis, which is a complication of an infection that, in essence, poisons the bloodstream. So, the answer to “can an abscessed tooth cause sepsis” is a clear “Yes!”

The picture shows a tooth abscess and how it looks in the month. Some abscesses are seen only with an x-ray.

tooth with an abscess

Can cavities impact my overall health? Is there a relationship between cavities and my overall health, inflammatory markers? Cavities and mouth inflammation? 

Mouth inflammation is the sum of conditions affected by your mouth microbiome, a balance of positive vs harmful micro-organisms, such as bacteria, viruses, and fungi in your mouth. 

The overall score of these microorganisms can keep your mouth healthy or lead to dental problems. These organisms do have a direct effect on your overall health and can impact your overall health by creating inflammatory responses and impact the following diseases: 

  • Heart and Arteries health 
  • Brain health: Dementia and Alzheimer’s
  • Joints Health 
  • GI health 
  • Diabetes and many other systemic diseases 

If the cavity gets big and the toot needs to be removed, should I replace the tooth? 

Front teeth are important for aesthetics and back teeth are critical for chewing. 

Our back teeth handle a lot of pressure while chewing, and if one back tooth is missing, the extra pressure is applied to the remaining teeth making them fragile and weak.

Fact: We use 160-200 pounds of force while chewing and we need back teeth to handle this chewing force. 

Teeth prefer to touch each other and if one is missing, teeth shift to close the space causing supra-eruption, which mean this creates a situation where teeth erupt and are “out of place.” 

illustration of missing tooth

What is the healthiest dental material to fix cavities? 

The newer options for dental fillings include BPA-free composites or glass ionomers, made of acrylic acids and fine glass powders. These new dental fillings can be colored to blend in with existing teeth. 

Should you replace mercury dental fillings?

There is extraordinary evidence showing the release of mercury in the form of vapor. This happens every time you stimulate the teeth. Examples may be drinking, eating, and brushing your teeth. Mercury vapors can easily pass through cell membranes, across the blood-brain barrier, which ultimately means it can enter the CNS (central nervous system). Once in the central nervous system, this is where psychological, immunological, and neurological problems can occur.

The most significant amount of exposure to mercury vapor from amalgam fillings is when they are placed and removed. Appropriate isolation and suction are also essential to help limit exposure to patients. 

If you choose to replace your mercury fillings, find a dental office that understands how to remove amalgam fillings safely.

Sunbit financing information. Sunbit financing is accepted by our dentists in Lincoln, NE at South Lincoln Family Dentistry.
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