A tooth cavity (brought on by dental caries) occurs when microorganisms in the mouth produce acids that attack and break down your teeth. As time passes, this acid wears away the enamel of your teeth, leaving a hole or a cavity in your tooth. However, a cavity cannot heal by itself, although if the early signs of dental decay are swiftly treated by your dentist before a cavity forms, it can be stopped. But without treatment by your dentist, decay will advance. Severe decay results in the loss of the affected tooth or teeth, accompanied with great discomfort, infection and other health problems.
A dental filling (or restoration) is basically intended to substitute tooth structure which is lost to decay. Though dental fillings may last for a number of years, they will have to be replaced eventually.
Reasons for the breakdown of fillings are multiple. They range from defective margins of the fillings, fractures, or secondary caries up to the total loss of a restoration. The other causes include periodontal irritation, worn-out or broken fillings, and discoloration or breakdown of esthetic aspects particularly in anterior teeth.
Direct restorations are fillings which will be placed immediately by your dentist into a prepared cavity in one visit. The restorative materials include dental amalgam, glass ionomers and most recently, composite (resin) fillings. Your dentist will prepare the tooth, place the filling and adjust it, if needed during one appointment itself.
Indirect restorations however require two or more visits. These are inlays, onlays, veneers, crowns or bridges made with gold, ceramics or composites. In the first visit, the dentist prepares the cavity in the tooth and takes an impression of the tooth. The impression is then sent to a dental laboratory, which creates the dental restoration (or filling). At the subsequent appointment, the dentist cements or fixes the restoration to the prepared tooth.
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