I have a cavity? But I don’t feel anything….

One common reaction we regularly get at a dental office is patients are often surprised to find out that they have a cavity. Personally been in that same position myself, and understand the disbelief! When showing a patient their cavity on our HD screens the common response is “but it doesn’t hurt”. While early cavities can sometimes lead to tooth aches, majority of them do not.

Picture a completely rusted car in a junkyard. The corrosion began as a small spot that eventually spread to destroy the car’s body. Tooth decay is very similar, slow process that begins as a small cavity which if left untreated, can worsen to eventually destroy the tooth. A cavity is essentially an acid burn caused by bacterial by-products sitting on and in between your teeth. This is not something that happens overnight, but takes many months and in some cases years to develop into something that we can see or feel.

How does a cavity form?

To simplify things, cavity requires 3 factors for it to develop:

  1. Tooth
  2. Diet (Carbohydrates)
  3. Bacteria

 

Essentially once you have all 3 factors present for a period of time it will lead to the formation of a cavity. Cavities first burn into the outer enamel of the tooth which is often painless and undetectable with the naked eye. As time progress, it will progress deeper to affect the next layer of the tooth known as dentine. You may begin to feel problem at this point. However, you often won’t until the cavity burns into the deeper part of the dentine and eventually into the nerve leading to a tooth abscess.

Treatment for a tooth cavity

Small cavity that are detected early are often treated with a simple filling with minimal risk. This can only be accomplished with regularly dental examination and x-rays as they can often go undetected due to no pain or sensitivity. With bigger cavity that have not quite reach the nerve yet, these may require a crown for treatment as there is limited tooth structure to adequately support a simple filling. However, because the cavity is deep there is a greater risk the nerve may go unsettle and require a root canal treatment. Finally, once the cavity has exposed the nerve the fate of the tooth is either a root canal treatment to decontaminate the tooth or worse case scenario the removal of the tooth. That is why it is important not to wait until you’re in pain to visit the dentist.

Take home message

In short, early detection with x-rays is an important aspect of cavity diagnosis. Don’t wait until you experience pain to visit the dentist. What could be caught as a small cavity requiring a routine filling can become a much more complicated and expensive problem if it is allowed to grow.

Book in with Victoria Street Dental for you check up today!