The right tool for the right job is one of the keys to attractive, long-lasting restorative dentistry. And that includes when we’re repairing cavities. Cavities are caused by tooth decay, as acid from bacteria and other sources removes the minerals from your enamel and destroys the tooth.

Most of the time a cavity is treated with a dental filling, but not always. Sometimes, we need another approach to repairing your tooth, one that will strengthen and protect the tooth.

When Fillings Are Too Large

When cavities penetrate the structure of your tooth, they are weakening that tooth. Decay puts the tooth at risk for infection and for fracture, which can extend from the top of the tooth down to the root, dooming that tooth.

Unfortunately, metal amalgam fillings require that we remove a significant amount of additional tooth material, weakening the tooth still further. Fillings are too large when they put the tooth at risk for fracture.

Is a filling the best choice to fill your cavity?

One standard for deciding when a filling is too large looks at the number of surfaces involved. Some studies suggest that a filling in one surface of your tooth weakens that tooth by 20%, while a filling in two surfaces weakens the tooth by 46%, and a filling in three surfaces of the tooth drops the strength by 60%! That is an unacceptable loss of strength that makes your tooth very likely to fracture under normal biting conditions.

Another standard looks at how much of the top of the tooth is removed for the filling. If the filling takes up ⅓ or less of the distance between the high points (cusps) of the teeth, it’s acceptable.

Some Fillings Can Strengthen Teeth

We can sometimes use fillings that are larger if we use materials that don’t weaken your teeth too much, which includes both kinds of tooth-colored fillings. Composite tooth-colored fillings are a little better than metal amalgam because they bond to the tooth and they don’t require the removal of so much enamel and dentin.

But the best tooth material for strengthening your teeth is a ceramic filling. Ceramic fillings are made of advanced materials that are even stronger than tooth enamel. And they can be placed with a minimum of tooth removal.

Is It Time to Get the Crown?

Even with more advanced materials, we sometimes have to look at the amount of damage to a tooth and say that a dental crown is required. Dental crowns provide a new, strong exterior to the tooth. This makes it beautiful and can prevent further damage from bacteria or acid erosion.

If your tooth has lost a substantial amount of enamel, either because of decay or because of previous restorations, then a dental crown is the right choice. This is usually the case if your tooth has been treated with root canal therapy to eliminate infection.

Are you looking for a dentist in Valdosta that will do dentistry right the first time? Please call (229) 242-5511 today for an appointment with Dr. Nelson Clements.