A majority of people have gotten at least one cavity at some point in their lives. This means that these dental patients have received a filling to treat this early form of tooth decay. Once a dentist treats a cavity, it is gone from your smile.
However, if you do not take proper care of your smile or your dental fillings, you might form another cavity under your dental work. Dentists call this condition recurrent tooth decay. Read on to learn more about the formation, treatment, and prevention of recurrent decay.
What Is Recurrent Tooth Decay?
A cavity is a type of tooth decay in which the outer layer of your tooth, enamel, has eroded, leaving a hole in the vulnerable interior of the tooth. Dentists can treat this dental problem by drilling away the decay and filling the hole with composite resin.
The dental filling seals the vulnerable section of the tooth from external threats like plaque. But if the filling becomes worn or otherwise damaged, plaque can infiltrate this area and create another cavity.
Dentists call this new cavity recurrent tooth decay. They may recognize damage to your filling if you have not noticed it yourself during a routine dental exam. Through x-ray imaging, they can tell if decay has reached this part of the tooth.
How Do Dentists Treat Recurrent Decay?
Treatment to get rid of recurrent decay will be similar to how a dentist approaches a cavity. First, the dentist will need to access the area under the dental filling or crown. They can give you a local anesthetic so that you remain comfortable while they remove the damaged dental work.
The dentist then drills away the decay once more and gives the patient a new dental filling. If the decay has advanced significantly to damage a large portion of the tooth, they may need to give the patient a dental crown to provide full coverage and protection for the tooth. They will seal it into place with dental cement so that the cap will stay over the tooth.
Can I Prevent Cavities from Developing Under Fillings?
As with initial cavities, a good way to keep your smile healthy and free from recurrent decay is to practice proper oral hygiene. This means that you should brush your teeth twice each day, floss daily, and visit your dentist for routine cleanings and exams. Rinsing with a mouthwash that contains fluoride could strengthen your enamel and lower your risk of getting cavities.
You should also protect your dental work by avoiding abnormally high pressures on these fixtures. You should not bite down on hard items like ice or fingernails.
If you have a habit of grinding or clenching your teeth, let your dentist know. The pressure generated by this behavior could cause a dental filling to wear down over time and leave your tooth in danger of decay. They may recommend that you wear a nightguard as you sleep to cushion your dental work from unconscious bruxism.