In dentistry, fillings are a very common procedure . Chances are you have a few fillings yourself. So what are fillings and why do we need them so frequently? The need for fillings arises from the structure of teeth themselves, so even the most diligent flossers and brushers will occasionally need one. Teeth are not smooth, they are covered with crevices and grooves that cannot be reached by a toothbrush.
Bacteria live and multiply inside these grooves and use the sugars from the food we eat to grow and cause decay over time. The bacteria and decay tunnel their way into the tooth through the enamel layer. The enamel on the tooth is much harder than the soft dentin core.
The bacteria decay can take months or even years to get through the enamel, but once into the dentin core they can spread to nerve and cause a root canal in a matter of weeks or months.
Above is a diagram showing how decay tunnels through enamel then spread into dentin. Since x-rays cannot detect cavities in grooves until it is too late, the development of High Definition cameras to spot deep grooves in teeth have been a major breakthrough for Preventative Dentistry. “Preventative Dentistry” is the art of early detection and elimination of cavities before they burrow deeper in the teeth causing more complicated and expensive dental procedures such as larger fillings, crowns and root canals.
The next step is early preventative fillings which have many substantial benefits over waiting until the cavities grow larger. They are virtually painless and usually don’t require any needles and anesthetic agents. Additionally the resulting fillings are so small that they last much longer than larger more invasive fillings. Additionally, all the remaining grooves of the teeth are sealed with composite. This leaves the bacteria nowhere to hide within the tooth, and further cavities are prevented for decades.