What Are The Latest Materials Used For Cavities?
Getting a cavity is no fun, but most of us will go through it at one time or another. While filling a cavity is a tried and true element of dentistry that goes back hundred of years, even in the 21st century dentists are continuing to develop new techniques and materials that make the process not only easier, but also more reliable and durable.
Perhaps the only thing that can make getting a cavity worse is having to refill that same cavity in a few years time because the filling or method that was used deteriorated faster than it should have. That’s why you need to make sure that your dentist is providing you with the most advanced dental filling option available.
Let’s take a look at the history of cavities and which materials are considered by dentists today to be the most effective. And don’t forget that for patients in the Nashville area, Jody Jones, DDS, offers the best cavity care available in the region.
What are Cavities?
Also referred to as caries, cavities are a form of tooth decay in which the outer surface of a tooth (the enamel, dentin, and cementum) breaks down, exposing the inner layers of the tooth to open air. Cavities can be extremely painful as they decay, and can show evidence of discoloration from yellow to black. Another result of cavities is the swelling of the tissue surrounding the tooth. In the worst cases, cavities can lead to the loss of the tooth and the formation of abscesses.
Cavities are caused by the creation of acid, which happens when food debris, in particular sugar, leads to the presence of bacteria. The bacteria feed on the debris on the tooth’s surface and the byproduct is an acid strong enough to erode the tooth. The best way to prevent cavities is by flossing, rinsing, and brushing after every meal.
It is estimated that worldwide, approximately half of the world’s population have dental cavities in their permanent teeth. Baby teeth cavities afflict nearly 10% of the global population. Studies show that cavities have become more common in recent years, likely a result of increased sugar consumption.
The History of Cavities
While the problem of cavities has become more pronounced in recent decades, it is certainly not a new phenomenon. Fossil records show that human ancestors suffered from cavities over four million years ago. Archeologists have theorized that cavities increased in humans as their diet shifted to foods that were higher in carbohydrates, in particular with the cultivation of wheat and rice.
With cavities something that needed to be worried about, early humans began to experiment with possible treatments. The earliest dental tools have been discovered in Pakistan dating back before 5,500 BC. Ancient texts mention a broad range of possible treatments, the most prominent one being extraction. However, there is evidence of many different innovative techniques for handling cavities, including filling them in with beeswax.
When sugar cane was cultivated in the 11th century, cavities increased again, and new treatments were developed, although many of them took the form of charms or herbal remedies. However, it wasn’t until the father of modern dentistry, the French doctor Pierre Fauchard, that the link between cavities and sugar was first hypothesized in the 18th century.
Starting in the 1800s, dentists began using a variety of metals to fill in cavities, including silver, gold, copper, tin, and even mercury. Over the years, dentists have developed amalgam metals rather than using pure silver or gold.
The modern materials that are transforming dentistry today
In the twentieth century, a number of new techniques were developed to fill in cavities that transformed the dental industry. Two of the main options were porcelain fillings and composite filling.
Porcelain fillings look like real teeth. They are prized because they offer a natural appearance. The downside is that porcelain is more fragile then other modern filling materials. Another drawback is they are made by first taking a mold of the tooth and sending it to the lab, where the porcelain inlay is custom created.
Composite fillings, on the other hand, are made up of a mixture of acrylic resin and powdered glass. Like porcelain fillings, they can be color matched to the surrounding teeth to ensure they are nearly invisible. The material is applied in layers and hardened using a UV light. Once the composite has hardened, it is ground down and polished to fit the tooth and to ensure its durability. Compared to metal fillings, they are not as durable.
A more recent option is known as glass ionomer restorations. This material became commercially viable in the 1990s and is made from a combination of acrylic and a special kind of glass. Even more remarkable, after it has been applied, it will release fluoride into the tooth, helping to prevent cavities in the future. Unfortunately, it is not as durable as porcelain or composite, and so is most often used in baby teeth or in teeth that are less involved in the chewing process.
Dentists have continued to develop new materials, which have become increasingly common in recent years. These tend to be newer forms of composite fillings, with the ingredients always being updated and optimized. The result is that today’s patients have more choice than ever before, and can work with their dentist to choose a material that works best for them based on durability, safety, and appearance. Check with your dentist before settling on the filling material that is right for you.
Your Nashville, Tennessee Cavity Specialists
If you or your loved one has a painful cavity, you want to know that you are getting the most advanced and effective treatment possible. At Jody Jones, DDS, our entire team is committed to providing Nashville area patients with the attentive care that they deserve. Your family can rest easy knowing that we use only the latest equipment and procedures, and every one of our patients is treated like a member of our own family.
If you are worried about your cavity being filled, worry no more. Call one of our friendly dental professionals today to schedule an evaluation.