If you’ve never had one before, hearing you have a cavity can be a dreadful feeling.
How did it happen? Is it serious? What happens next? Will it hurt? Is it expensive?
Here are a few answers to those questions that might prepare you for your first cavity, so you don’t panic when you hear the news.
How Did it Happen?
Put simply; a cavity is a hole in your tooth. It’s caused by demineralization. When you eat food, any particles that are left on your teeth are digested by the bacteria that is in your mouth. The byproduct of that digestion is acid. That acid attacks your enamel and erodes your teeth, causing cavities.
You could have become too relaxed with your brushing and flossing routine, or maybe you ate an abundance of sticky foods over the holidays. You could be taking a medication that leaves your mouth dry, and there isn’t enough saliva to wash away debris. Sometimes it’s genetics that contributes to cavities. 92 percent of people in the U.S between the age of 20 and 64 have cavities, so you are definitely not alone.
Is it Serious?
If you are getting regular dental check-ups, getting a cavity shouldn’t be serious. If you haven’t been to the dentist in a while, the decay could have had the chance to become serious. Your dentist should be able to tell you about the severity of your cavity and what you’ll need to fix it. In most cases, you will just need a filling.
If the decay spreads underneath the enamel and into the dentin of your tooth, you may need a root canal and a crown. In severe cases where the tooth is cracked and irreparable, you could need an implant. If this is your first cavity and you’re not in severe pain, don’t panic. You will more than likely need a filing, and if not, your dentist should be able to explain everything you need to know.
What Happens Next? Will it Hurt?
You’ll set up an appointment to come in and get the filling. First, your dentist will numb the area of your mouth he or she will be working on. They will use lidocaine, and you’ll feel a slight pinch—this should be the only pain you feel for the entire procedure.
Once the area is numbed, your dentist will drill away the decayed portion of the tooth. Then the tooth will be filled with composite resin, porcelain, silver, gold or amalgam. The entire procedure can take about 10 – 20 minutes depending on the size of the cavity. And the numb feeling will take a few hours to wear off.
Is it Expensive?
An amalgam filling costs between $100 and $200, and composite between $150 and $250. More and more people are opting for composite fillings because there are low levels of mercury in amalgam. Most dental insurance will cover a good portion of a filling, and many dentists have Dental Maintenance Plans available to those without dental insurance.
When you hear you have your first cavity and are worried about getting a filling, make sure you ask all the questions you need to. It’s important that you have a dentist who you trust, and who is happy to answer all of your questions, no matter what.
If you already got the news about your first cavity, and you went home to ask Dr. Google—and landed here, I hope this helped some.