Tooth decay usually starts with the accumulation of plaque, or the thin, sticky film that forms on your teeth when sugar interacts with the bacteria in your mouth. When you don’t brush as often or as well as you should, it allows plaque and bacteria to build up on your teeth.
As the bacteria begin to eat away at your tooth enamel, it creates spots of decay known as cavities. Eating a diet that’s rich in sugar or carbohydrates boosts your risk of developing cavities.
While it’s possible to live with tooth decay in its earliest stages, untreated cavities can progress quickly and lead to far bigger problems. The same buildup of plaque and bacteria that cause cavities can eventually cause gum inflammation and lead to gingivitis, also known as gum disease or periodontal disease.
Left untreated, tooth decay can also spread to multiple teeth. Cavities that are allowed to progress for too long may ultimately lead to the need for root canal therapy or even a complete tooth extraction, if the tooth is too decayed to be saved.
Restorative dentistry includes any dental treatment that restores functionality to your teeth, which includes repairing the damage caused by a cavity. A filling restores a decayed tooth back to its normal function and shape.
Before Dr. Yang can fill a tooth, he must first remove the decayed tissues and clean the affected area. The type of material he uses to fill the hole caused by a cavity depends on its location in your mouth and the extent of the repair.
While there are several filling materials available, including gold, silver, plastic, and porcelain, the most common dental fillings are:
These plastic fillings are customized to match the exact color of your teeth for a natural appearance. Although these fillings are the most aesthetically pleasing solution because they’re virtually imperceptible, they’re not as durable as amalgam fillings. They also aren’t ideal for larger fillings because they tend to chip more easily.
These silver fillings are more resistant to wear and tear, making them an ideal material for the surface of your molars, which bear most of the force when you chew. Because of their darker color, amalgam fillings aren’t aesthetically suitable for the sides of your teeth, or teeth near the front of your mouth.