Dr. Michael C. Hattaway
Family Dentistry

1317 Central Drive
Sanford, NC 27330

PO Box 2517
Sanford, NC 27331

Phone: (919) 775-2522
Fax: (919) 774-5639
lisa_hattaway@windstream.net frontdesk_hattaway@windstream.net

What is a Cavity?

Your teeth are covered with a sticky film of bacteria called plaque.  When this plaque comes in contact with the sugars and carbohydrates that you eat, the bacteria inside the plaque converts these sugars and carbohydrates into acid.  This acid attacks the enamel of your teeth for as long as 20 minutes or more.  Repeated attacks of acid will cause the enamel to break down resulting in caries also known as cavities or decay.  Cavities are most likely to develop in pits on the chewing surfaces of the back teeth, in between teeth, and near the gumline.  Sealants can be placed in the pits and fissures of teeth to help prevent decay.

Cavities develop below the tooth's surface, where you can't see them.  Over time, the tooth enamel begins to break down beneath the surface while the surface remains intact. When enough of the sub-surface enamel is eaten away, the surface collapses, forming a cavity. 

Treatment of Tooth Decay

Once decay has started, and a cavity has formed, it becomes necessary to treat it to prevent the process from extending further.

Caries - Enamel When decay is limited to enamel: Treatment at this initial stage is preventive in nature because it will stop the decay process from extending to deeper areas of the tooth. All that is necessary is a simple filling. It is usually painless at this stage.
Caries - Dentin When decay has extended to dentin: This may be painful after eating or with cold water. Food is likely to be lodged in the cavity. Treatment at this stage consists of a more extensive filling. It may be necessary to numb the area during treatment.
Caries - Pulp When decay has reached the nerve: Serve pain is the usual complaint. The invading bacteria cause the nerve of the tooth to become inflamed. Root canal treatment will be necessary at this stage if the tooth has to be saved.