Most people will experience at least one cavity at some point. This early form of tooth decay forms when bacteria eat away at the enamel (outer layer) of your tooth to create a hole.
Your dentist can treat a cavity with a dental filling. Once drilled away, you can feel confident that the cavity is gone for good. But if you do not take care of your oral health, including your filling, you could form another cavity on the same tooth.
Dentists refer to this type of cavity as recurrent tooth decay. Read on to learn more about the formation, treatment, and prevention of recurrent decay.
How Does a Cavity Form Under Dental Work?
A typical cavity forms when plaque, bacteria, or other harmful residues linger on your teeth and eat away at your dental structure. Recurrent tooth decay forms in the same way.
When your dentist treats a cavity, they fill the resulting hole with composite resin, a dental filling. This creates a shield that prevents bacteria from accessing this vulnerable part of the tooth.
But if the filling breaks or becomes loose, bacteria can reach this section of the tooth. Then a cavity can form under this dental work: recurrent decay. It can also form if you develop a cavity close to your dental filling on the surface of the same tooth.
How Will My Dentist Treat Recurrent Tooth Decay?
A dentist will treat recurrent tooth decay in a similar way that they treat an initial cavity. They cannot always see this type of decay under a filling with a visual exam. But it will show up on a routine dental x-ray.
The dentist will need to remove the filling or other dental work to access the decay. They will give you a local anesthetic to numb the affected area so that you will not feel discomfort during this process. Then they drill away the decay.
Additional decay may create enough damage to the surface of the tooth that a filling will not be enough to restore the tooth’s structure. In this case, a dentist will use a dental crown to cover the tooth, improving its shape and protecting it from further harm.
Can I Prevent Cavities Developing Under Dental Work?
If you take care of your oral health, including your prior dental work, you can reduce your chances of forming recurrent tooth decay. You can do this, as well as prevent cavities in general, by practicing good oral hygiene.
This entails brushing your teeth twice a day and flossing daily. You should also visit your dentist for routine teeth cleanings and oral exams to maximize this preventative care.
Protect your dental fillings by avoiding biting down on hard items, like fingernails, that could damage your dental work. You should talk to your dentist if you have a habit of grinding your teeth too.
Acidic and sugary foods and drinks can weaken your tooth enamel, making your teeth more susceptible to tooth decay. So make sure you stick to a healthy diet that will not harm your smile.