Treatment for dental cavities may involve: fillings, crowns, root canals
Dentists fill teeth by removing the decayed tooth material with a drill and replacing it with a material such as silver alloy, gold, porcelain, or composite resin. Porcelain and composite resin more closely match the natural tooth appearance, and may be preferred for front teeth. Many dentists consider silver amalgam (alloy) and gold to be stronger, and these materials are often used on back teeth. There is a trend to use high strength composite resin in the back teeth as well.
Crowns or "caps" are used if tooth decay is extensive and there is limited tooth structure, which may cause weakened teeth. Large fillings and weak teeth increase the risk of the tooth breaking. The decayed or weakened area is removed and repaired. A crown is fitted over the remainder of the tooth. Crowns are often made of gold, porcelain, or porcelain attached to metal.
A root canal is recommended if the nerve in a tooth dies from decay or injury. The center of the tooth, including the nerve and blood vessel tissue (pulp), is removed along with decayed portions of the tooth. The roots are filled with a sealing material. The tooth is filled, and a crown may be placed over the tooth if needed.
A simple saliva test can predict for the first time whether children will get cavities, how many cavities they will get and even which teeth are most vulnerable, University of Southern California researchers say.
Developed by a USC School of Dentistry team led by professor Paul Denny, the test quantifies the genetic component of tooth decay (caries).
Dentists have long known that even in areas with fluoridation and good oral hygiene education, some people just have bad teeth. The USC test spots the risk early, when something can be done about it.
"When we apply this to young children, it allows us to predict what might be their future caries history - the number of cavities that they'll get by, say, their late twenties or early thirties," Denny said.
The physical and financial burden of caries increases with age, researchers said. The cost of dental care can be prohibitive and is not covered by Medicare.
Fillings deteriorate and need to be replaced with larger fillings, often leading to root canals, crowns and even tooth loss.
That is why stopping the formation of cavities is so important, Denny said.
"It's the initial cavity or caries that we're worried about," he said. "If we can prevent that, then we prevent this whole lifelong process from occurring."