Anyone can get cavities. Eating food with carbohydrates — think candy, fruit, soft drinks and bread — increases your risk of suffering tooth decay, because the bacteria in your mouth triggers a chemical reaction turning those carbohydrates into enamel-dissolving acids. That leads to the development of holes in your teeth, called cavities, which at best need to be cleaned out and filled by your dentist. At worst, decay can continue to destroy your tooth, affecting your gums, causing you to lose teeth or require surgery to restore your oral health.
Cavities might be more common than you think: 92% of adults ages 20 to 64 have had at least one cavity in their permanent teeth, according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. About a quarter of the people in that age group have teeth with untreated tooth decay, exposing them to further oral health issues in the future.
The good news is cavities can be easily repaired with dental fillings, given the decay is not so severe it requires additional treatment. Your dentist will check for cavities at your regular checkups, and you should always feel comfortable asking questions about how your dentist will treat any oral health issues he or she discovers, including tooth decay. Here are some things to know about dental fillings:
There are several kinds of dental fillings.
The American Dental Association lists six kinds of fillings patients receive in the U.S., but it's up to you and your dentist which material suits you best. Materials include amalgam, composite (resin), glass ionomer, resin ionomer, porcelain (ceramic), and gold alloys.
The average American adult has roughly 7 permanent teeth with fillings.
The number of fillings a person has relates to their access to dental care. As such, people with more education and higher incomes have more fillings, according to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Current smokers have fewer fillings than former smokers or people who never smoked, but smokers also have more untreated tooth decay and more missing teeth than nonsmokers.
A single tooth may require multiple fillings after treating decay.
Individual teeth have many surfaces, so the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey looks at fillings on surfaces, not just how many teeth have fillings. The average American between ages 20 and 64 has 17.31 permanent surfaces with fillings. The most educated and least impoverished adults average about 20 surfaces with fillings, and Americans ages 50 to 64 have an average of 27.35 filled permanent surfaces. (A mouth with a full set of teeth has dozens of tooth surfaces.)
If you're dealing with tooth decay or have recently learned you have a cavity, don't let it go untreated. The experts at Sweet Tooth Dental in Kona, HI, can answer any concerns you have about treating tooth decay and addressing your questions about dental fillings.