Cavities are holes in the teeth which are caused by decay. The main cause of cavities is a diet high in starch and sugar. This starch and sugar combines with saliva in the mouth to form a sticky substance which then adheres to our teeth. As this substance hardens, it turns into what dentists refer to as plaque. Bacteria, which is normally present even in a healthy mouth, convert the sugars of plaque into acid, which dissolves the outer layer of the tooth. As a result, spots of decay form over time.
When you first make an appointment at John G McAllister DDS Family and Cosmetic Dentistry in Downey, California, our dentist will begin by doing a visual examination of the mouth. Cavities are frequently seen on the tops of teeth and patients may realize they have one or more even before the examination. For hidden cavities, such as between the teeth or just below the gum line, a tool called a dental explorer is used. A dental explorer is an instrument with a sharp, curved point that sticks when it comes into contact with a pocket of decay. As such, it is excellent for finding cavities that might not be visible.
While cavities are frequently seen on the tops or sides of the tooth, some decay happens inside the teeth. Because of this, the dentist may order a series of x-rays for the upper and lower portions of the mouth. By examining these x-rays, smaller pockets of decay can be found early and corrected before they become a bigger problem.
The first part of the corrective procedure is to remove the pockets of decay entirely. This involves the use of a drill. After the decay has been removed, a filling is used to restore the tooth. Patients will then be provided with instructions which typically require abstaining from drinking or eating for several hours following the procedure. In rare cases, other restorative procedures may be recommended, depending on the advanced nature of the decay.