Regular brushing alone is not sufficient to guard against the risk of tooth decay. Regular appointments with your dentist and hygienist are critical in ensuring that plaque doesn’t have the chance to accumulate on your teeth and damage your oral health.
When plaque does collect on the surface of teeth, it acts to convert the sugar and starch from the food we eat into acids — acids that cause a tooth’s enamel layer to lose minerals. If the tooth continues to come under attack from plaque acid, the enamel layer can be eaten through, forming a cavity.
Cavities are not always obvious, they can be painless and if they are affecting a tooth in a less visible position in the mouth, they can go unnoticed for a long time. Cavities are typically shades of yellow, brown or black in appearance and left untreated can become very large, eating through the layer of dentine beneath the enamel and into the root of the tooth itself.
Ideally, cavities would be prevented from occurring by the use of fluoride products in response to the early signs (one of the advantages of regular check-ups with our principal dentist Oberah is that such prevention is possible). When cavities do develop, however, the degraded portion of the tooth needs to be removed and the gap filled to prevent further decay.
Dental fillings use a metallic material called amalgam — a mixture of tin, silver, copper and liquid mercury. Some people are concerned about the use of mercury in amalgam but the quantities are small and many authorities (such as the World Health Organisation and the American Dental Association) have declared that amalgam is perfectly safe and of no risk to humans when used as dental fillings.
Amalgam fillings are durable and you can expect them to last at least 10 years. They are metallic in colour, however, and some people find them aesthetically unappealing. Tooth coloured fillings made of composite material are a popular alternative if you would prefer a more natural look. If a tooth is particularly badly decayed, Oberah may suggest strengthening it with a crown.