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CONTENTS
What is tooth decay?
What are the causes for tooth decay?
How can tooth decay be prevented?
What are the cures for dental carries?
What is an Amalgam filling?
What is a Composite filling?
What is an Inlay?

Related Topics
What is Root Canal Treatment [RCT]?
What is a Crown?

What is tooth decay? filling/carries/decay
             Tooth decay is a common dental ailment affecting humans. It can occur at any age. The first sign of a cavity formation may be a white spot on the tooth, which in time may turn brown or black. When it is a white spot, low concentrations of fluoride applied frequently can arrest further development. Otherwise further destruction of the outer enamel results in a small cavity. During this period you would experience food impaction in or between the teeth and sensitivity to extreme temperatures and to sweets. Plaque, a sticky almost invisible film of bacteria that is constantly forming on your teeth turns the food particles into acid, which attack the tooth enamel further. With repeated acid attacks a large cavity is formed. If the cavity is not treated at the dentine stage, the decay spreads deeper into the pulp and cause toothache. Sometimes the infection spreads into the bone through the root tips and forms a gumboil (periapical infection).
            A form of tooth decay affecting the nursing infants is called “Nursing carries” or “Baby Bottle Syndrome” or “Rampant Carries”. In infants who are nursed continuously with a bottle or pacifiers, the milk is retained in the mouth as the child sleeps. This milk is an excellent nutritive media for a variety of bacteria's, which breaks down the milk into acids. These acids attack the enamel of the milk teeth and produce carious cavities. Almost all the milk teeth are affected leaving only the lower anteriors. The carious lesion spreads rapidly and cause destruction of all the tooth substance leaving behind  the root stumps. Luckily the permanent teeth are not affected.

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What are the causes for tooth decay?

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How can tooth decay be prevented?
Certain simple preventive measures can prevent tooth decay. You must follow the Six Golden Rules for good dental health. Maintain proper oral hygiene by following the correct Brushing and Flossing technique. (Follow the links to another of my web page to understand more.)
Fluoride provides many benefits. It aids in the development of sound enamel. It helps reduce enamel solubility and increases enamel resistance to acid attack. It prevents demineralization of enamel. It enhances remineralization at the beginning stages of a cavity and may arrest further development of a cavity by depositing the fluoride mineral called fluoroapatite. Fluoride used in addition to daily brushing and flossing helps to reduce the chances of a cavity.

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What are the cures for dental carries? filling/carries/decay/pain/pus
             Prevention is always better than cure. A cavity should be filled at the earliest before it can cause any major damage. If you develop any blackened spots on your teeth or if it gets sensitive to sweets and to temperature changes, then it is likely that you are in the first stages of tooth decay. Once a small cavity is formed then food particles gets collected in them resulting in a bigger cavity due to undermining of the tooth enamel. The tooth should be restored immediately with a filling material after the entire carious lesion has been removed.
There are many types of filling materials, but for permanent fillings, two commonly used filling materials are --- Amalgam and Composite.

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What is an Amalgam filling?
             Silver Amalgam is the oldest filling material know to man. It is an alloy of silver, tin, mercury, copper and zinc.  Silver amalgam is most commonly used for fillings on the back teeth, where strength is of utmost importance and the silver color is relatively inconspicuous. Silver amalgam is relatively inexpensive and lasts an average of 14 years. The filling takes almost two weeks to become fully hardened, but you may safely chew on it after twenty-four hours. Your teeth may experience some degree of temperature sensitivity for a few days to a week, if the carious lesion is deep. If the sensitivity does not disappear in a long while, or it is more serious, you might require RCT.
            Some people are concerned about the toxicity of the mercury used in the filling. But in fact, amalgam has been used successively for many many years in dentistry and has been tested continuously. There is no evidence showing that it is hazardous to human. Since amalgam has dark metal color, the filling is not esthetically pleasing, this is its only disadvantage. Until recently, it was the only choice of  dental filling material.

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What is a Composite filling?
            Composite resins are mainly used in the front teeth, where a silver filling would be conspicuous. Thanks to advances in modern dental materials and techniques, teeth can now be restored with more aesthetic and natural appearing filling materials. There are different types of cosmetic fillings currently available. The type used will depend on the location of the tooth and the amount of tooth structure that needs to be repaired. Increasingly, these fillings are now also being used on the back teeth. Although they have the advantage of being the color of the teeth they are more expensive than silver amalgam and may not last as long.
             It is made up of a composite quartz resin and contains a light sensitive agent. These materials come in a variety of shades so that they will match the color of your own teeth. Composite materials are now available that have been specifically designed to withstand the incredible forces you can exert when chewing on your back teeth.
            In order to bond a filling material to your tooth it is first necessary to remove decay, prepare the tooth and then to condition the enamel and dentin. Once conditioned, a thin resin is applied which bonds to the etched surface. The bond strength of these fillings are incredible. After placement, composites are hardened by shining an intense light (ultraviolet) on them for a specified period of time, usually around 40 seconds. The light instantly hardens these fillings. You can eat right away because the composite is instantly hardened and requires no setting time.
           Glass ionomer, a tooth-colored filling, is formulated to release fluoride once in place, a benefit for people prone to decay below the gum line. Glass ionomer or Compomer is used to restore areas damaged by overzealous brushing resulting in abrasions near the gum line.

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What is an Inlay?
There are two types of indirect fillings: Inlay and Onlay.
             Inlays are recommended for the lesion that are small and only involves the chewing surface and the surface between the teeth. The surfaces on the lip side and tongue side should be intact with no decay. Inlays can be made from composite resin, porcelain, or gold. Damaged tooth is cleaned and prepared by the dentist. Impression is made of the mouth, and sent to a dental lab. An inlay is fabricated on the positive tooth model. On your next visit the dentist inserts and cements it onto your tooth. An inlay is more conservative than a crown because it requires less removal of tooth structure.
             An onlay is similar to an inlay but is extended to cover the entire chewing surface, protecting cusps from fracture.

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* Know your teeth * Know your Gums (Gingiva) * Eruption Dates * Six Golden Rules * Brushing\Flossing Technique * Wisdom tooth * Tooth Decay * Extraction * Dental Implant * Surgical Extraction * Orthognathic Surgery * Asymmetry of the face * Gummy Smile * Prognathism{Long Jaw} * Beggs\Straight wire{Orthodontia} * Bleaching{Tooth Whitening} * Habit Breaking * Interceptive Orthodontics * Discolouration\Veneers * Composite\Amalgam Fillings * Root Canal Treatment{RCT} * Crown{Porcelain\Castmetal} * Flap Surgery/Splinting * Bridges{Porcelain\Castmetal} * TMJ (Joint) Disorders * Bell's Palsy {Facial Paralysis} * Ankylosis{Difficulty in mouth opening} * Cleft Lip and Palate * Trigeminal Neuralgia * In a Lighter vein


This site is produced, designed and maintained by
Dr Antony George, Trichur Institute of Head And Neck Surgery (TIHANS),
Shornur Road,Trichur,Kerala-680001,India.
Ph: 0091-0487-335145, 335185
email me
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copyright ©Aug 2000. No part of this website may be transmitted or reproduced in anyway. Every effort has been made to supply correct and accurate information, but I assume no responsibility for its use.

updated Aug2002.