What are dental cavities?

Cavities occur when bacteria remain on the teeth long enough to soften them. If the teeth become soft enough, a hole forms. That's a cavity.

What causes cavities?

Cavities are caused when you consume sugar or carbohydrates, and some of it stays in your mouth. The bacteria in your mouth feed on it, producing an acidic byproduct that sits on your teeth, slowly dissolving them. Eventually, the minerals that make your teeth hard begin to leave, and the teeth get softer until they can fall apart.

How does a dentist check for cavities?

We have several methods for detecting cavities. We use x-rays, particularly for cavities between teeth. Sometimes, we can visually spot them. We also use an explorer to feel around. Additionally, we use a technology called DiagnoDent, a laser detection system for cavities. It measures the bacterial activity in the crevices of the teeth to determine if there's a cavity.

What are the stages of a cavity?

A healthy tooth has a hard enamel shell on the outside. The first stage of a cavity, or a pre-cavity, is when plaque weakens the tooth. The bacteria produce acid that begins to soften the enamel. On an x-ray, you can see a V shape entering the enamel. If it breaks through the enamel and reaches the dentin, it expands like a mushroom. If it continues, it hits the nerve, causing sensitivity, pain, and potentially requiring a root canal. We prefer to prevent cavities before they start, or at least before they get this deep.

Can cavities spread to other teeth?

The bacteria that cause cavities can move from one area to another, but it's not like the flu. You won't get a cavity from kissing someone who has one. However, if teeth are touching and one has a cavity, the other tooth might also develop a cavity due to poor cleaning in that area. So, yes, the bacteria can travel, but it's not contagious like the flu.

Is it possible for cavities to go away?

If a cavity is very small, sometimes we can stop or reverse it with excellent hygiene and prescription fluoride. We can use silver diamine fluoride to halt a cavity, and then use a special toothpaste to remineralize the tooth. But most cavities don't just disappear.

How do you stop a cavity from progressing?

If a cavity is deep enough, you can't stop it from progressing. However, since a cavity is essentially bacteria feeding off sugars and carbohydrates, if you can reduce the food that the bacteria have, it's going to slow down. So good hygiene and a healthy diet can help. However, some cavities won't go away without a dentist's help. But if they're really small and we catch them early, we might be able to reverse them with excellent hygiene.

How long does a cavity filling last?

The lifespan of a filling is similar to that of a car. Just as some people's cars last a long time because they take care of them, a filling can last a long time if you take care of it through hygiene and protecting your bite. If you're grinding or clenching and not protecting it, it won't last as long. So, fillings can last anywhere from 5 to 20 years, but the average is probably around 5 years.

How can dental cleanings prevent cavities?

Dental cleanings prevent cavities in several ways. They clean your teeth and remove bacteria. But the most significant advantage of a dental cleaning is the feedback you receive during your visit. The dental staff can spot early signs of problems, which is crucial for maintaining oral health. Dental cleanings are helpful, but what you do at home is even more important.

What should I do if I suspect I have a cavity?

If you suspect you have a cavity, the best course of action is to make an appointment with your dentist. Sometimes, what you think is a cavity might be something else, like food stuck between your teeth or sensitivity due to gum recession. At the same time, you might have a cavity and not even know it. So, it's always a good idea to consult your dentist.

If you have any more questions or need our assistance, please call us at the office. Our number is (864) 756-5576. We'd be more than happy to help you. Have a great day!

Dr. Rouse, what are the stages of a cavity?

The stages of a cavity start with a healthy enamel shell on your teeth. If bacteria remain on your tooth for an extended period, their byproducts, which are acidic, begin to soften the tooth. On an x-ray, you'll start to see a small triangle tunneling its way towards the inside of the tooth. If a cavity reaches the inside of the tooth, it expands, similar to a mushroom. If it reaches the nerve, the nerve is not pleased and can sometimes die. In this particular case, the nerve has died and an infection has started. The cavity starts on the outside, but once it penetrates to the softer inside, it expands. It is crucial to stop it before it reaches your nerves.

Dental Fillings Dentist Serving Greenville, Five Forks, Simpsonville, Taylors, Greer, Mauldin & Nearby Areas Of  South Carolina

Whether it’s a cavity or you chip or crack a tooth, it’s never a good time to need a filling. You have to contend with tooth pain while finding a time to get to the dentist. And, depending on the location of the cavity, chip, or crack, the cosmetic impact on your smile may be unavoidable.

Many patients expect unsightly metal when they think of dental fillings, but advances in materials make it possible to repair cavities, cracks, chips, and other damage. Flatrock Family Dentistry provides multiple restoration options that balance aesthetics with the functional goal of repairing your tooth.

If you have a cavity or damaged one or more teeth, Flatrock Family Dentistry is here for you. Call our office in Greenville, South Carolina, at (864) 756-5576 today. Our dentists welcome patients from Five Forks, Simpsonville, and neighboring communities.

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What Are My Options for Fillings?

SmileFor many years, the go-to material for fillings has been metal amalgam. Some dentists offer gold fillings, but the most common option in modern times is a combination of silver, mercury, and other metals.

These fillings are durable and effective at repairing cracked, chipped, and fractured teeth. However, there are downsides to metal amalgam that many patients want to avoid:

  • Mercury is a concern: Through simple wear and tear, metal amalgam fillings break down over time, releasing small amounts of mercury vapor that can cause symptoms in patients with mercury allergies or sensitivities
  • Significant prep: In order to place an amalgam filling, the dentist has to remove healthy tooth structure to make room for the filling and allow for expansions
  • Instability: Exposure to varying temperatures causes metal amalgam to expand and contract; this can damage the tooth over time
  • Aesthetics: Metal amalgam lacks luster and doesn’t look like the natural tooth; if the filling is placed in your smile line, you may feel self-conscious about its prominent appearance

At Flatrock Family Dentistry, we exclusively use composite, or tooth-colored fillings.

We use this material to repair small cavities or cracks and often use it to replace small silver fillings that are leaking or have cracked. These fillings blend in naturally, and because they are bonded to the teeth with strong adhesives, they actually help strengthen the teeth.

What Are Tooth-Colored Fillings?

Composite fillings are made from a durable resin. To prepare for the filling, your dentist will examine the tooth. If decay is present, he will remove it and prepare the surface for placement of the filling material.

Dental composite is applied to the damaged portion of the tooth in layers. Once the layers fill in the empty space, the composite will be hardened in place with a special curing light. Your dentist will then examine his work, adjust the filling so no excess material is present, and polish it to a lifelike shine.

Dental Filling – Before & After

Filling Before

Before Filling

Filling After

After Filling

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In addition to the cosmetic advantages, other benefits of white fillings include:

  • Better support for the tooth: Dental resin actually bonds with the tooth structure, making it stronger; the resin material also doesn’t change shape due to temperature fluctuations
  • Limited preparation: Unlike their metal counterparts, tooth-colored fillings don’t require significant removal of healthy tooth structure
  • Safer material: Dental resin contains no mercury, limiting negative health impacts from wear and tear

In the event that you need more than a filling to repair one or more teeth, our dentists also provide natural-looking crowns and other restorations.

What Are The Rules After You Get A Filling?

Composite fillings have the added benefit of minimal aftercare instructions. After a composite filling, you should:

  • Avoid chewing until the numbness has gone away
  • Eat soft and easy to chew foods that day
  • Take over-the-counter pain relievers for any discomfort

Gone are the days of cumbersome aftercare instructions for metal amalgam fillings. Metal fillings required 24 hours of careful and limited eating.

How Long Does It Take For Teeth Fillings To Settle?

Composite fillings are solidified and hardened as soon as the dentist exposes the material to the blue UV light. Therefore, there’s really no settling time for these fillings! To keep everything feeling comfortable and healing correctly, it’s a good idea to avoid the stickiest, chewiest, toughest foods for about 12 hours.

Can I Eat Immediately After A Tooth Filling?

Because a composite filling is solidified immediately when exposed to the blue light, you do not have to wait to eat when you get a composite filling for that reason. Having said that, you should wait to eat – at least on the side of the mouth that got the filling – until any numbness has gone away, usually 2-3 hours. Chewing while your face is numb can easily lead to biting your lips, tongue, and cheek. You could bite it so hard that it causes an injury.

How Can I Prepare For Dental Fillings?

There’s really not much you need to do to prepare for a dental filling. The procedure is generally minimally invasive – some appointments require bigger fillings, but we will make sure you know what to expect if a big filling is being placed (there’s still not much for you to do in either case).

You should:

  • Get a good night of rest
  • Eat a full breakfast and/or lunch like normal
  • Come prepared with any questions or concerns

We’ll be able to complete your filling using local anesthetic, and you’ll be ready to go home right after.

Is There Any Recovery Involved After Fillings Are Put In?

Because composite fillings are immediately set, there’s very little recovery. You should:

  • Wait 2-3 hours before eating so that all the numbness resolves
  • Prevent discomfort from sensitivity by avoiding hot and very cold drinks for the rest of the day
  • Chew cautiously once you do start eating
  • Avoid sugary sweets, which can trigger or worsen sensitivity
  • Avoid chewing foods like steak, crusty breads, or other hard-to-chew foods for about 12 hours while the numbness and sensitivity resolve
  • Take your time and chew carefully

We will make sure you are fully informed of what to do after a filling. For most people, the area feels normal the next day, although some minor sensitivity may linger for a couple days.

Schedule a Greenville Dental Fillings Consultation to Fix Your Smile

When you visit Flatrock Family Dentistry, our dentists and the entire staff are dedicated to making sure you’re comfortable and understand the options available for maintaining your dental health and improving your smile.

Schedule your white filling appointment today by calling (864) 756-5576 if you need to repair one or more teeth. Or, you can go to our contact page and fill out the appointment request form. Our skilled doctors and talented team look forward to serving you!