What is odontotherapy?
It is the science of finding and treating dental cavities. The presence of cavities is considered to be an illness that cause the tooth structure to suffer damage and collapse. Bacteria are the cause of these modifications, that in the presence of carbohydrates produce lactic acid; this increases the acidity in the oral cavity and the teeth are subjected to demineralisation for two hours after a meal, a process that stops because of the composition of saliva. One can be more susceptible to cavities if one suffers from illnesses that decrease the quantity of saliva, such as diabetes, takes anti-depressant medication, is subjected to radioactive therapy or is a smoker.
Sometimes, cavities have no symptoms. That is why you must visit your dentist so you can track and treat them from an early stage (most of the time they are detected during routine visits or during the bi-annual plaque removal treatment). If you discover them yourself, you must be in pain and be sensitive to hot or cold foods and beverages.
Why must a cavity be filled?
Because, if left untreated, cavities lead to complications such as pulpitis (the inflammation of the nerve), necrosis (the death of the nerve, accompanied by it rotting and becoming gangrenous, which causes pain and a foul odour) and even more serious complications, all manifesting with serious dental pain. Also, complicated cavities are more difficult to treat (require more treatment sessions if a root canal treatment is required) and the treatment is more costly (it can cost 15 times more than a simple filling).
What goes on during the treatment of a cavity?
The methods of treatment vary based on the degree of destruction of the crown and root that the tooth has undergone. The sooner a cavity is found, the simpler and faster the treatment. If a cavity is already present, the only treatment solution is to restore the tooth with filling material; most times we do this under local anaesthesia, preceded by an anaesthetic spray. After a filling, the tooth will work for 5-7 more years, after which the it has to be replaced (filling material is not as tough as natural tooth enamel). If the walls of the tooth are too thin to after removing the affected material, the tooth will have to be covered with a crown. In case the dental pulp has been affected, then the tooth has to undergo root canal treatment and have its crown reconstituted from fibreglass and ceramic covers. There are also situations where the tooth can no longer be saved and it has to be extracted. In this case, we’re talking extreme cavities that have been there, extending, for years and have been known the patient for a while as well.
What can you expect after a filling?
Most times, after anaesthesia wears off, there is no special sensation in the area, so you should be feeling just perfect, at least in the area where your filling was performed. Sometimes, post-op sensitivity may occur, which is a natural reaction, especially when the cavity had expanded close to the tooth’s pulp chamber. This sensation should disappear in a few days after the operation. If however you experience increased, unbearable sensitivity (close to dental pain) you must notify your dentist immediately. Also if you feel the filling is too tall for more than a day, you should also notify your dentist and make an appointment to repair your dental occlusion. One must not submit to the belief that the filling will “wear out eventually” as this will not happen and can lead to serious consequences.
What is the benefit to treating cavities?
As previously stated, light activated fillings bring functional and aesthetic benefits straight away and they last long, needing nothing more than regular check-up!
What are the risks?
The actual treatment has no other risks except the ones posed by anaesthesia (see oral anaesthesia); the risk related to incorrect occlusion is minor as long as you see your dentist right away to remedy any problems.
What else should we be thinking about?
Dental cavities can be regarded as any illness that can be treated and even prevented; prevention measures are simple: maintain good oral hygiene and modify your diet. Along brushing and daily use of dental floss, professional cleaning every 6 months. Diet modifications imply a decrease in refined sugar consumption (less frequent, not as much as less quantity). Sticky foods should be eaten during main meals and avoided in the evenings and soft drinks should be avoided.