What is a cavity anyway?

May 17, 2022

You may have been told in the past that you have a cavity in your tooth and told you need a filling. But what is a cavity really? And what happens if you ignore the problem?

A cavity is a defect in the protective coating of your tooth this defect can allow bacteria to have access to the tooth and decay the tooth as they start to multiply in the hole (known as the cavity). Your tooth is protected by a very hard layer of enamel. That enamel is what protects the tooth itself from damage and decay. The tooth may have a defect in the enamel due to damage from a trauma or injury (something as simple as using your teeth to open a package, or biting on something hard) or from decay due to bacteria.
Our mouths are filled with bacteria and although good oral hygiene can prevent many dental diseases, sometimes despite our best brushing and flossing habits, a cavity may form. You may have a discomfort with the cavity but small or early cavities may be painless.

It is important to address a cavity as soon as it is identified because the smaller the cavity is when it is treated, the more of your own tooth you are able to preserve. No dental restoration is as strong as natural tooth, so the more tooth you are able to keep the better,

If you ignore a cavity, the bacteria in the cavity will get to work eating and reproducing and producing waste (YUCK!) all that bacterial activity will decay more and more of the tooth the way a city expands from the inside out until you are left with a large hole. When there is so much decay that the nerve of the tooth is exposed, a tooth will become extremely painful and it will become impossible to ignore. If you waited until now to treat the cavity you just bought yourself a root canal, a much more invasive and expensive procedure than a simple cavity filling.

If you continue to ignore the cavity eventually the pain will abate temporarily (because the nerve of the tooth dies) but you may suffer intermittently from swelling and pain to your face as the large hole in your tooth allows abscesses to form in your mouth. These infections can spread and become life threatening.

So when your dentist tells you that you have a cavity, don’t put off getting it filled, getting a filling

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