How Teeth Decay
When plaque accumulates on a tooth, eventually the acid from the plaque wears through the enamel of the tooth, causing a weak spot or hole; that area is known as a cavity, or tooth decay.
Avoid tooth decay by:
- Cutting down on sugary or starchy food and drinks
- Brushing and flossing after meals to reach plaque between the teeth
- Use fluoride toothpaste to strengthen enamel
- See your dentist regularly for checkups and preventive care
Cavities are diagnosed with a thorough exam and x-rays. Some cavities are easily spotted on the surface of the tooth, others can be seen on x-rays as a dark spot.
Composites (tooth colored fillings) are an effective and natural looking solution for restoring cavities. We will numb the area so you are comfortable, decay is then removed and the tooth is shaped to securely hold the filling. The composite resin is applied layer by layer and hardened with a special light. We then shape the filling to fit comfortably with your bite and give the filling a final polish.
Restoring a Large Cavity
When a tooth has a large cavity, a crown is often the best treatment. After removing the decay from the tooth, there may not be enough tooth structure remaining for a filling to sufficiently support the tooth. This could cause the tooth to fracture or break. A thorough exam is done to determine the best choice of treatment.
Sedative fillings are a short term treatment used when a tooth’s nerve is inflamed or painful due to decay. These temporary fillings soothe and protect the tooth until treatment can be done. We will numb the area so you are comfortable, decay is then removed and the tooth is shaped to securely hold the filling. The filling material hardens to become waterproof and protect against bacteria. Sedative fillings are temporary solutions, and treatment will be scheduled for permanent restoration once pain and inflammation has calmed.
Sometimes an all porcelain crown is the best option for restoring a tooth. Porcelain has the delicate translucently of natural teeth, but is strong and durable; it works like a hard-hat to cover and protect your tooth.
These crowns are carefully crafted in a lab to match your smile and fit precisely.
At your first visit, we will choose a shade that best matches your tooth. We will numb the area, all decay will be removed, and your tooth will be shaped to prepare for the crown. Next, an impression is taken of the tooth for the lab to make a crown that fits your tooth and bite accurately. We will then place a temporary crown while the permanent crown is being made.
Two weeks later you will come back; we will numb the area again, remove the temporary crown and insert the final crown.
If a tooth is severely decayed or fractured, there may not be enough structure for a crown to hold onto. In this case we would use a core build up, usually made with a composite material, to replace the missing portion of the tooth. The build up and tooth are shaped to hold the crown and allow for maximum retention. A build up is also completed after a root canal to support a future crown.
Crowning a Cracked Tooth
When a tooth is cracked, a crown is often the best treatment to protect the tooth and prevent breakage. Teeth crack for numerous reasons: grinding, clenching and the pressure from chewing every day. It is important to evaluate a crack as soon as possible to prevent it from growing.
The symptoms of a cracked tooth include:
- Sensitivity to temperature, sweet or sour foods
- Sharp pain when chewing
- Intermittent pain rather than constant pain
Why Crowns Need RCT
Crowns do not protect the inside (pulp) of your tooth. The pulp contains nerves, blood and veins to keep the tooth alive, and if the tooth becomes infected, root canal therapy (RCT) is necessary. An infected pulp does not heal on its own, and if left untreated it can spread and cause painful abscesses. There is no way to predict the need for future root canal therapy, but if a tooth is damaged enough to need a crown, it is likely that the pulp is compromised. If it is suspected that a crowned tooth needs root canal therapy, we will refer you to the Endodontist (root canal specialist) for an evaluation. In some cases they can enter the tooth through the crown, and restore it afterwards. In other cases the crown may need to be removed to properly treat the tooth, and then a new crown will be made.