Treating Dental Cavities

What are the possible options when a cavity appears in a tooth?

One of the most common problems that we encounter at our Burton dental clinic is the formation of tooth cavities caused by decay. We can all limit the risk of this happening by eating a tooth friendly diet and making sure that we brush our teeth well and use floss, but the reality is that most of us will, at one time or another, have a cavity form.

The one thing that you shouldn’t do if you suspect you have a cavity; perhaps it is large enough to feel or you have noticed a little discomfort or sensitivity, is to ignore it in the hope that it will go away. This won’t happen and it will almost certainly become larger, and possibly more painful too. The further you allow the cavity to develop, the likelier it will be that more extensive treatment will be necessary than if you had addressed the problem as soon as you had noticed it by booking a prompt appointment at SG Dental and Implant Centre.

Let us take a look then at how this problem might be treated.


The most obvious way to restore a tooth with a cavity is to fill it. Depending on the type of filling used, any decay will first need to be removed and the tooth then shaped in order for the filling to be securely placed. There are two key types of filling that can be used for this purpose. Let us take a look at these now.

– Amalgam fillings

These have been used since the early 1800s although they have developed significantly from the first ones which used a small amount of mercury and melted silver coins! Modern versions still use mercury along with a powdered alloy consisting of silver, copper and tin. This provides a strong and long lasting material for this purpose but it is not without its drawbacks.

Some patients express concern about the use of mercury as it is a toxic substance, but the British Dental Association considers this to be a safe material when used in this way. There are plans to gradually reduce its use though, partly due to concerns around pollution.

The other less attractive property of this material is that it is very dark in colour. While this might be less of a problem in rear teeth, it can be very visible in most teeth when yawning or laughing. For this reason, more and more of our Burton patients are opting to have white dental fillings which we will look at shortly.

Amalgam fillings also often require the removal of healthy parts of the tooth in order to shape it so that the filling will fit securely. Amalgam also shrinks over time and can create small gaps that allow bacteria to enter.

– Tooth coloured fillings

The most attractive reason to opt for tooth coloured fillings over amalgam ones is their appearance. Unlike amalgam, this material can be made in a shade that matches the natural colour of your teeth. This makes the fillings much easier to blend in and is less noticeable to others when you smile etc.

White fillings also require less of the natural tooth to be removed as it bonds well to the tooth itself, unlike amalgam. These fillings can be used for most cavities but where the cavity is too large or located in an area that would cause it to come under a lot of pressure when eating etc, a stronger option such as a crown may be necessary.

– Glass ionomer

This material is rarely used to fill a tooth as it is a comparitively weak material. It can be useful though to protect the tooth in non biting areas, such as near the neck of the tooth. Most patients are unlikely to encounter this type of filling though.

Dental crowns

Where a tooth is badly broken or a very large cavity has formed, your dentist may suggest that a crown be attached to preserve the tooth.

Crowns are usually made from porcelain or ceramic and are produced from impressions and scans of your tooth once it has been prepared by shaping it. These are produced at a dental laboratory and you will be given a temporary crown to protect the tooth in the meantime. Once your new crown has been returned to us, you will be recalled to have it fitted. This is done using a powerful clinical adhesive. This is a strong and effective way to restore a tooth with large cavities and, with good care, your crown can last for around ten years before it needs to be replaced.

If you suspect that you might have a cavity in a tooth, or if you have any other dental issues that you are concerned about, why not give us a call to see how we can help you? You can get in touch with us either by using the online form or by giving SG Dental and Implant Centre a call on 01283 845345.