The most common dental concern among patients and dentists alike is tooth decay. When cavities go undetected, they continue to eat away at tooth tissue, eventually spreading to the more sensitive roots. In order to preserve the teeth of our Kansas City patients, it is our goal to identify and stop decay as early as possible. But no matter the stage of a cavity or the degree of already decayed tissue, there are numerous treatments available to properly restore your teeth. Here are some of the most common and effective ways to keep your smile healthy and strong.
Dental fillings are often the restoration of choice for cavities, or dental caries, that are detected in their early stages. As long as a cavity is relatively small and confined to a tooth’s crown, a filling can aptly replace tissue that has been lost to decay.
Traditionally, fillings have been made from amalgam - an alloy of mercury, silver, and other metals. While this technique is still effective and widely used, additional benefits can be gained from tooth-colored fillings such as composite resin and porcelain. Aside from its aesthetic benefits, composite resin also bonds more easily to a tooth, increasing its strength and integrity. This also means that less tissue needs to be removed, which would otherwise be required to prepare it for a proper bond. Porcelain is an even superior looking material, able to match the color and texture of your teeth to near perfection. Additionally, porcelain is long-lasting and stain resistant, lasting many years without wear or need for replacement.
Inlays and Onlays
Like fillings, inlays and onlays can replace diseased tissue after it has been removed. Unlike fillings, however, these are not created directly within the tooth. Rather, impressions are taken of your teeth after decay has been removed, which will serve as a mold for the restoration. From this mold, the inlay or onlay is crafted from a durable material such as porcelain, ensuring an ideal fit.
Inlays and onlays are generally reserved for larger cavities, for which a filling may not provide enough support. Inlays are used for cavities confined to a tooth’s center or sides, whereas onlays are used for cavities that come up to a tooth’s upper ridges, called the cusps.
Root Canal Therapy
Once tooth decay penetrates the roots, infection will spread to the sensitive dental pulp, which contains nerves, blood cells, and connective tissues. In addition to pain caused by a root canal infection, this also compromises the tooth’s strength and ability to regenerate tissue. If infection continues to spread, it will likely result in eventual tooth loss and nearby bone loss in the jaw.
To preserve a tooth and avoid extraction, root canal therapy may be suggested by your cosmetic dentist. In a root canal treatment, decayed tissue is first removed from the crown, extending downward toward the roots. The dental pulp is then removed, and the roots are treated with antibiotics to curb infection. Although this often requires the removal of a significant portion of tooth tissue, it effectively saves the tooth and prevents the needs for a full tooth replacement. Due to the sizable cavity, a dental crown is most often needed to protect the tooth afterward.
For extensive decay, a dental crown may be required to permanently reinforce and protect a tooth. Whereas the aforementioned restorations fill space within a tooth, a dental crown also covers it completely, literally serving as the tooth’s crown. Teeth that require dental crowns are those that have been weakened or reduced in size to the point where they cannot be adequately supported by fillings, inlays, or onlays.
If your tooth requires a dental crown, a thin layer of enamel will first be removed from the surface, and impressions will be taken. The crown will then be created from these impressions, customized to match your tooth’s appearance and shape. Once ready, the crown will be placed over the tooth and permanently cemented on.
Keep Your Cavities in Check
Don’t let tooth decay spread! Come in for routine dental appointments to catch any early signs of decay and receive proper treatment. Contact us to schedule an appointment or to learn more about our variety of restorative procedures.