At some stage in your life it is likely that your dentist will inform you that you have a cavity and consequently need a filling. This is a standard dental procedure and generally an uncomplicated one.

What are Cavities?

Cavities are permanently damaged areas in your teeth that, over time, turn into holes. Cavities can be caused by a number of different factors including bacteria in your mouth, frequent consumption of sugary snacks or drinks and poor oral hygiene habits. All of these factors can result in tooth decay, which causes cavities. If left untreated, cavities can increase in size and can result in toothaches, infection and even tooth loss.

Symptoms of Cavities

  • Toothache
  • Tooth sensitivity
  • Pain when you bite down
  • Brown or dark stains on the surface of your tooth
  • Visible holes or indentations in your tooth
  • Dental Examination

It is important to see your dentist if you experience any of the above symptoms. Your dentist will also check for cavities as part of your routine dental examination. This involves:

  • Asking about tooth pain and sensitivity
  • Examining your teeth
  • Probing your teeth with dental instruments to discover any soft areas which might indicate a cavity
  • Analysing a dental x-ray which will show the extent of the cavity
  • Treatment

Depending on the severity of the decay, a cavity can be treated in the following ways:

Fluoride treatment (remineralization): used in the early stages of tooth decay, fluoride can help the affected tooth restore itself without further intervention. The teeth are coated with either a gel varnish, foam or liquid solution that acts to strengthen the tooth’s enamel. Your dentist may apply the fluoride treatment directly onto the teeth or may place it in a device that fits over your teeth. The treatment only lasts a few minutes.

Filling: When the tooth decay is more advanced and the damage permanent, a filling is required. Your dentist will anaesthetise the area before using a dental drill to remove the cavity and associated tooth decay. The tooth is then filled with a tooth-coloured resin, porcelain or silver amalgam material.

Crown: When the tooth decay is particularly developed, a crown may need to be fitted. After anaesthetising the area, the dentist will remove all of the decay and will take a mould of your tooth. This mould is then used to create a crown, which is a covering that fits snugly over your tooth. This treatment is only necessary if the tooth decay is very extensive.

Root canal: This is the most drastic treatment for cavities that are so extensive that they have spread deep into the root of your tooth or when the inside of your tooth dies. After administering anaesthetic, the dentist will make an incision in the top of the tooth and will insert an implement that will reach all the way into the root. This implement is used to remove all of the decay from inside the tooth and in the root. The tooth will then be sealed with a rubber-like substance to prevent further decay.