It's sad when you visit the dentist and you find out you have cavities. Most people want to know an exact number, but scientifically, cavities are holes caused by an infection of bacteria and there are an infinite number of them in any one tooth. The bacteria are trapped in tooth crevices or under the gums, and create cavities that are shallow, medium or deep, and in between too!
The answer most people are really want to know is: what is the cutoff between when should you put a filling in and when you either wait or treat with preventive dental techniques.
Last century when amalgam was the only filling material, and x rays were based on wet film dental schools taught us that the time to fill a tooth was when the cavity is medium or deep! This was because an amalgam filling needs a good deal of tooth removed to keep the filling in place. So dentists waited to fill until a lot of tooth was already destroyed by the cavity. Shallow cavities were also hard to spot on older x rays since the films were not readily enlargeable, so some cavities went unnoticed, and untreated.
Since the invention of resin filled composites and digital x rays, it is now practical to treat a tooth earlier, at the shallow stage, before the tooth is ready to cave in or become a toothache. With an shallow filling, more of the tooth is saved, the filling is smaller and the tooth lasts longer and is pain free.
Newer techniques beside fillings include sealants, remineralizing gels and probiotics that can prevent cavities or help heal the shallowest ones.
Waiting till it hurts is "old school". A cavity untreated leads to tooth pain and tooth loss. With a new understanding of what a cavity is, and a new vocabulary to describe them, teeth are kept longer, and you are happier.
Call Dr. Korwin at 732-219-8900 to discuss your teeth and answers to your tooth cavity questions.