If you live in the United States, then chances are that you’ve had at least one cavity in your lifetime. After all, over 90% of adults in America have been affected by tooth decay in at least one of their permanent teeth. Tooth decay is a progressive disease; if not treated, it will continue to eat away your tooth’s structure until the tooth is no longer functional and either falls out or requires extraction.
Treating tooth decay, however, depends on what stage the infection is in when it is discovered. To help you understand tooth decay, we explain the various methods for treating cavities depending on their severity.
Treating Minor Tooth Decay
The beginning of tooth decay involves a process called demineralization, during which organic acid extracts minerals from your teeth, weakening your tooth enamel. As your tooth’s outer layer, enamel is your first and strongest defense against decay. When it is weakened, bacteria can easily slip past and infect the main part of your tooth directly underneath the enamel, called dentin.
As decay spreads, small holes form in your tooth called cavities and tooth sensitivity often occurs. If caught early, decay can usually be stopped by removing the decayed tissue before it can affect more of the tooth’s structure. Usually, the removed tooth structure is replaced with a manmade material, called a dental filling, to reinforce the tooth and prevent it from further damage.
More Serious Cases of Decay
Sometimes, tooth decay may not be caught until it has progressed enough to seriously threaten your tooth. If allowed to progress past the dentin and into your tooth’s center, the infection can destroy the nerves and blood vessels housed in the tooth’s pulp. In such cases, saving your tooth would be an excellent result, but the main focus is preventing the infection from spreading through your roots, into your gums and jawbone, and possibly to other teeth.
Root canal treatment can remove extensive decay and seal the ends of your tooth’s roots, effectively halting the infection. Because root canal treatment often involves the removal of significant tooth structure, a dental crown is often placed over the tooth to protect it from further infection and damage. In extreme cases, when root canal treatment will not suffice, you may have to undergo tooth extraction to remove the severely infected tooth and the threat it can pose to the rest of your smile.
ABOUT YOUR SAN FERNANDO VALLEY, CA, DENTIST:
At A New Smile Dental Group, our dentists strive to offer each patient individual care and access to high-quality, modern dentistry at an affordable price. If you would like to schedule a consultation, then call our San Fernando Valley, CA office today at (818) 897-5771. We proudly serve residents of Pacoima, CA, as well as San Fernando, Los Angeles, Granada Hills, Van Nuys, Sherman Oaks, and all surrounding communities.