Cavities Treatment and Tooth Decay in Cape Town

Preventing tooth decay seems easy enough – you brush twice a day, floss and see your dentist regularly. While this is true for some people, several factors influence your teeth’s ability to stave off cavities – and our highly skilled team can help you determine whether you’re at risk.

Some people have naturally weaker enamel, while others regularly eat foods that weaken their enamel over time.

If you have any concerns about tooth decay – whether you already have a cavity or you’re worried that you may have heightened risk of developing one, we can help you.

Good oral health is key to your overall health and wellbeing. Preventing tooth decay and cavities is one of the most important ways to keep your teeth in good condition and prevent any additional dental complications.

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What is a Cavity

Tooth decay is the softening of your tooth enamel (the hard outer surface of a tooth) caused by acids that are created when decay-causing bacteria in plaque break down sugar in your mouth. If the loss of minerals from the enamel of your tooth is left untreated and plaque continues to build up, a cavity, or hole in your tooth will form. Without treatment, these holes can grow larger over time and may even destroy your tooth entirely. An untreated cavity can lead to severe toothache, along with countless other symptoms, and even tooth loss. It can also result in more serious complications, such as the formation of a tooth abscess, or a serious infection that can spread into your bloodstream.

Areas in your mouth that may be at a higher risk of developing plaque include:

  • Chewing surfaces of your molars where bits of food can collect in the grooves and crevices
  • Between your teeth

The bottom of your teeth near your gums

Treatment for Cavities and Tooth Decay In Gardens, Cape Town

Regular dental check-ups can identify tooth decay and cavities before they become more serious. The sooner you seek care, the better your chances are of reversing the earliest stages of tooth decay and preventing it from progressing.

Treatment of cavities depends on how severe they are. The various treatment options for tooth decay and cavities include:

  • Early-stage fluoride treatment:

If your cavity just started, fluoride treatment can help restore your tooth’s enamel. Fluoride can be used in various forms to either stop or repair the damage that has occurred due to tooth decay. Professional fluoride treatments are generally quick and can be applied directly to your teeth. Fluoride comes in the form of a gel, varnish, foam, or solution.

  • Fillings:

When tooth decay has progressed beyond the earliest stages, fillings are the main treatment option. The decayed portion of the tooth is drilled away and replaced with a strong filling made of either composite resins, porcelain, silver, gold, or amalgam. Fillings will essentially stop the cavity from growing any larger.

  • Crowns:

Larger cavities and extensive tooth decay may require a crown instead of a filling. A crown is a custom-fitted covering that replaces your tooth’s entire natural structure. To place a crown, the outer portion of your tooth as well as any decay is first removed. An impression of your tooth will be taken, and you will be fitted with a temporary crown until your permanent crown is ready for fitting. Crowns can be made from various materials, including high strength porcelain, resin, porcelain fused to metal, gold, or other materials.

  • Root canal:

When the tooth decay becomes so severe that it reaches the inner material of your tooth (pulp), you may need a root canal. A root canal is performed to repair and save a badly damaged or infected tooth instead of extracting it. Your tooth will first be numbed before removing the pulp. The root canal inside of the tooth will then be cleaned and shaped. Medicine may be applied inside the tooth in order to get rid of any bacteria. Finally, the root canal will be filled with a rubber-like substance and a crown or filling will be placed on the tooth to restore and strengthen it.

  • Tooth extraction:

If the tooth decay has caused severe damage that cannot be repaired or restored by means of any other treatment options, the tooth will need to be extracted. The damaged and decayed tooth will first be numbed and then removed. Once the tooth is successfully extracted, a post-extraction regime will be recommended.

Having a tooth removed will leave a gap that can potentially cause your other teeth to shift. If possible, you should consider getting a bridge or a dental implant to replace the missing tooth.

You may notice increased pain and swelling after a tooth extraction.

How much will it cost to treat a Cavity?

The cost associated with treating a cavity will vary greatly depending on the severity of the cavity and the type of treatment required. During your initial consultation we will assess the extent of your cavity and the treatment option best suited to you. We will then be able to give you an accurate estimate of the total cost involved.

Stages of Tooth Decay

  • Stage 1: Initial demineralization

Initial demineralization refers to the breakdown/loss of minerals in the enamel of your tooth when exposed to acids produced by plaque bacteria. When this occurs, a white spot may appear on your tooth. This area of mineral loss is typically the first sign of tooth decay.

  • Stage 2: Enamel decay

If tooth decay continues, the enamel of your tooth will break down even further. You may notice the initial white spot on your tooth darkening to a brownish colour. As your enamel weakens, small holes in your teeth called cavities, or dental caries, can start to form. These cavities will need to be filled by your dentist.

  • Stage 3: Dentin decay

The third stage of tooth decay is dentin decay. Dentin is the tissue that lies under the enamel of your tooth. It is much softer than enamel, making it more prone and sensitive to damage from acid. Due to its softer structure, tooth decay will proceed at a much faster rate when it reaches the dentin.

When dentin is affected by tooth decay, you may experience an increase in tooth sensitivity. This is owed to the fact that dentin contains tubes that lead to the nerves of the tooth. The increased sensitivity will be particularly noticeable when consuming cold or hot food or drinks.

  • Stage 4: Pulp damage

The pulp is the innermost layer of your tooth. It contains the blood vessels and nerves that helps keep your tooth healthy as well as provides sensation to your tooth. When the pulp of your tooth is damaged, it can become irritated and start to swell. As a result, pressure may be placed on the nerves due to the tooth’s surrounding tissue not being able to accommodate the swelling. This can lead to significant pain.

  • Stage 5: Abscess formation

As tooth decay advances into the pulp, bacteria can invade the area and cause a serious infection. This will result in increased inflammation in the tooth, leading to the formation of a pocket of puss at the bottom of your tooth called an abscess. A tooth abscess can cause severe pain that may radiate into your jaw. You may also experience other symptoms, including swelling of your gums, jaw or face, a fever, as well as swollen lymph nodes in your neck.

A tooth abscess requires prompt treatment as the infection can spread into the bones of your jaw as well as other areas of your head and neck. In some cases the infected tooth will have to be removed.

What Causes Cavities and Tooth Decay?

There are a variety of factors that can cause tooth decay and cavities. Some of the top factors include:

  • Poor oral hygiene: Poor oral hygiene is one of the major and most common causes of tooth decay and cavities. Not brushing and/or flossing your teeth regularly and thoroughly allows plaque to build up and attack the tooth enamel.
  • Plaque formation: Plaque formation ties in directly with poor oral hygiene habits. When plaque is not properly removed on a regular basis, it will adhere to your teeth and continue to build up over time. In the presence of sugar, plaque produces acid which attacks the enamel of your tooth, eventually resulting in the formation of cavities.
  • Dry mouth: Saliva helps wash plaque from your teeth and buffer the acid. Plaque and bacteria may build up more quickly if you have a dry mouth with very little saliva.
  • Eating and drinking: One of the most common causes of tooth decay and cavities are sugary and sticky foods and beverages. The more sugar consumed; the more acid produced. Sugar combines with plaque to weaken the enamel of your teeth, leaving you vulnerable to tooth decay. In addition, when you drink or eat, carbohydrates remain on your teeth until you brush your teeth. Even after brushing, you may not be able to remove all the carbohydrates or food particles from your teeth. These foods that cling to your teeth can significantly increase your risk for developing a tooth cavity. It is vital to brush and floss your teeth regularly to prevent this from happening.
  • Plaque Bacteria and Acid: Bacteria naturally live in our mouths and on our teeth.  When these bacteria digest the food particles and carbohydrates that linger on our teeth and in our mouth, acid forms. This acid attacks the tooth’s enamel, causing it to lose minerals.
  • Medical problems: Certain types of cancer treatments that expose the neck and head to radiation can promote the formation of a tooth cavity by changing the makeup of your saliva, resulting in increased bacterial growth.
  • Receding gums: If your gums are receding, plaque can form near the roots of your teeth. This area is not protected by tooth enamel and is therefore more vulnerable to tooth decay. If you have exposed roots, plaque acids can also attack the dentin of your teeth and cause what is known as a root cavity.
  • Weak enamel: Some individuals have naturally weaker enamel due to genetics or illness, making them more prone to tooth decay and cavities.

Signs and Symptoms of Cavities and Tooth Decay

As tooth decay progresses, cavity symptoms start to appear. The signs and symptoms of cavities can vary depending on their location and extent. Some of the most common signs and symptoms of cavities include:

  • Mild to severe toothache (depending on the severity of the cavity)
  • Increased tooth sensitivity
  • Increased pressure and pain when biting down
  • Mild to sharp pain when eating or drinking something cold or hot
  • Visible pits or holes in your teeth
  • White, brown, or black stains on the surface of your tooth
  • Inflammation or infection of gums around your tooth
  • Loose fillings
  • The formation of abscesses on teeth that cause pain, facial swelling, or fever
  • Damaged or broken teeth
  • In the case of severe tooth decay and cavities, tooth loss may occur

If you present with any of these signs and symptoms or have any concerns about tooth decay (whether you already have a cavity or you’re worried that you may be at higher risk for developing one), it is important to seek treatment as soon as possible. The earlier symptoms are identified and addressed, the quicker and easier the cavity treatment will be.

What can you do to Prevent Cavities?

Practising good dental and oral hygiene is one of the top ways to prevent tooth decay and cavities.

There are several measures you can take to help prevent the formation of a dental cavity or other types of tooth decay and damage.

  • Visit your dentist regularly for check-ups and cleanings.
  • Start and keep up with a comprehensive oral hygiene routine.
  • Brush your teeth at least twice a day with a toothpaste that contains fluoride. Brushing your teeth after every meal or snack is one of the best ways to prevent the formation of plaque that cause cavities.
  • Establish a regular flossing routine and rinse your mouth daily with a fluoride-containing mouthwash.
  • Drink water regularly throughout the day to help rinse your teeth and boost saliva flow.
  • Avoid consuming food and drinks that are high in sugar. Focus on consuming healthy, nutritious meals.
  • Avoid/limit between-meal snacking as this can give the bacteria in your mouth even more sugars to convert into acids.
  • Avoid using tobacco products, including smokeless tobacco.
  • Using products containing fluoride can help prevent tooth decay and cavities. Fluoride flows into weak spots and helps rebuild these areas before they can become cavities.
  • Ask your dentist about antibacterial treatments. There are various special antibacterial mouth rinses and other treatments that can help prevent bacteria and plaque build-up in your mouth.

Is Tooth Decay Reversable?

If tooth decay is caught and addressed in its early stages, it is reversable. However, once the decay has progressed past a certain point where the enamel of the tooth has lost too many minerals and a cavity has formed, it is unable to repair itself.

Tooth decay can be reversed and prevented by practising good oral hygiene, avoiding sugary and starchy foods, and going for regular dental check-ups and cleanings.

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