Tooth decay is damage that occurs when germs (bacteria) in your mouth make acids that eat away at a tooth. It can lead to a hole in the tooth, called a cavity. If not treated, tooth decay can cause pain, infection, and tooth loss
What causes tooth decay?
Bacteria and food can cause tooth decay. A clear, sticky substance called plaque is always forming on your teeth and gums. Plaque contains bacteria that feed on the sugars in the food you eat.
As the bacteria feed, they make acids. The acids attack the teeth for 20 minutes or more after you eat. Over time, these acids destroy tooth enamel, causing tooth decay.
Used for: Fillings in back teeth Lasts: At least 10 years, usually longer
● Amalgam fillings are strong. They can withstand the forces of chewing. ● They are less costly than the alternatives. ● Amalgam fillings can be completed in one dental visit. ● They are less sensitive to moisture during the filling process than composite resin.
● Amalgam doesn’t match the color of your teeth. ● Amalgam fillings can corrode or tarnish over time. This can cause discoloration where the filling meets the tooth. ● A traditional (non-bonded) amalgam filling does not bond (hold together) with your tooth. ● The cavity preparation (the “pocket” in your tooth) developed by your dentist requires undercuts or ledges to keep the filling in place. Your dentist may have to remove more of the tooth to create a secure pocket. ● Some people may be allergic to mercury or be concerned about its effects. Research shows that the amount of mercury exposure from fillings is similar to what people get from other sources in the environment.
Used for: Small and large fillings, especially in front teeth or the visible parts of teeth Lasts: At least five years
● Your fillings will match the color of your teeth. ● A filling can be completed in one dental visit. ● Composite fillings can bond directly to the tooth. This makes the tooth stronger than it would be with an amalgam filling. ● Less drilling is involved than with amalgam fillings. That’s because your dentist does not have to shape the space as much to hold the filling securely. The bonding process holds the composite resin in the tooth. ● Composite resin can be used in combination with other materials, such as glass ionomer, to provide the benefits of both materials.
● Composite resins cost more than amalgam fillings. ● Although composite resins have become stronger and more resistant to wear, it’s not clear whether they last as long as amalgam fillings under the pressure of chewing. ● The composite may shrink when placed, producing gaps between the tooth and the filling. This can lead to more cavities in areas where the filling is not making good contact with your tooth. The shrinkage is reduced when your dentist places this type of filling in thin layers.