Cavities or Tooth Decay

What Is Tooth Decay?

Tooth decay, also known as dental cavities or dental caries, is the destruction of your tooth enamel, the hard, outer layer of your teeth. Tooth decay or cavities can be considered to be the world’s most common dental problem. It can occur in children, teens, and adults. Anyone who has teeth can suffer from tooth decay or cavities, including toddlers.

When dental cavities form tiny holes or pits, it can lead to bacterial infection, tooth loss, or severe pain in the teeth. Tooth decay or a cavity is treated using procedures like dental sealants and fluoride treatments, or dental fillings. Tooth decay and cavities can occur on the smooth surface of the tooth, the biting surface of the tooth, near the root, or near the gumline.

What Causes Tooth Decay?

Tooth decay occurs when the bacteria in the mouth make acids that attack the enamel. These acids are formed when plaque bacteria break down the sugar and starch from the food we eat. Tooth decay also occurs when food gets trapped between the teeth and is not removed by brushing and flossing.

Some factors that lead to tooth decay or cavities are:

  • Poor Oral Hygiene: Not brushing and flossing the teeth regularly allows plaque to build up and attack the enamel.

  • Dry Mouth: Saliva helps to wash plaque away from the teeth. If you suffer from dry mouth, plaque and tooth bacteria may build up more quickly.

  • Eating Habits: People who consume too many sugary or acidic foods and drinks are at higher risk of tooth decay.

Tooth Decay Stages

Tooth decay occurs in the following stages:

Cavities start out as small holes on the surface of the tooth, but if they are left untreated they grow larger and eventually affect the deeper layers of the tooth. An untreated cavity can also become a tooth abscess. In the worst-case scenario, the damaged tooth may have to be removed! That is why it is necessary to get tooth decay or cavities treated as soon as possible.

Signs Of Tooth Decay

In order to stop the damage done by tooth decay, it is important to notice tooth decay symptoms early and get the tooth decay treated as quickly as possible. Some of the signs of tooth decay or cavities are:

If you notice any tooth decay symptoms, book an appointment with the dentist for tooth decay treatment as soon as possible.

How To Stop Tooth Decay?

There are many ways to treat tooth decay or cavities. The best cure for tooth decay is prevention, so dental sealants and fluoride are used to prevent tooth decay or cavities. Sometimes this may not be enough to prevent tooth decay and cavities are formed. In tooth decay treatment, dental fillings are used to repair the damage caused by tooth decay or cavities.

Dental Sealants and Fluoride Treatment

When you visit our dental practice in Salem, MA for dental sealants & fluoride treatment, Dr. Orfaly and our Registered Dental Hygienists will explain the benefits and what will be the best solution for you or your children’s dental care.

Dental sealants are thin plastic coatings painted on the chewing surface of teeth — usually the back teeth (premolars and molars) — to prevent tooth decay.  Sealants quickly bond into the grooves of the teeth, forming a protective shield over the enamel of the teeth.

is the most effective agent available to help prevent tooth decay. It is a mineral that is naturally present in varying amounts in almost all foods and water supplies. The benefits of fluoride have been well known for over 50 years and are supported by many health and professional organizations.

Fluoride Works in Two Ways:

Topical fluoride: Strengthens the teeth once they have erupted by seeping into the outer surface of the tooth enamel, making the teeth more resistant to tooth decay. We gain topical fluoride by using fluoride-containing dental products such as fluoride toothpaste, mouth rinses, fluoride varnish, and gels. Dentists and dental hygienists generally recommend that children have a professional application of fluoride twice a year during dental check-ups.

Systemic fluoride: Strengthens the teeth that have erupted as well as those that are developing under the gums. We gain systemic fluoride from most foods and our community water supplies. It is also available as a supplement in drop or gel form and can be prescribed by your dentist or physician. Generally, fluoride drops are recommended for infants, and tablets are best suited for children up through the teen years. It is very important to monitor the amounts of fluoride a child ingests. If too much fluoride is consumed while the teeth are developing, a condition called fluorosis (white spots on the teeth) may result.

Although most people receive fluoride from food and water, sometimes it is not enough to help prevent decay. The dentist or dental hygienist may recommend the use of home and/or professional fluoride treatments for the following reasons:

Remember, fluoride alone will not prevent tooth decay! To properly protect your teeth from cavities or tooth decay, it is important to brush at least twice a day, floss regularly, eat balanced meals, reduce sugary snacks, and visit your dentist on a regular basis.

Tooth-Colored Dental Fillings

A composite (tooth-colored) filling is used to repair a tooth that is affected by tooth decay, cracks, fractures, etc.  The decayed or affected portion of the tooth will be removed and then filled with a composite filling.

There are many types of filling materials available, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. You and the dentist can discuss the best options for restoring your teeth. Composite fillings, along with silver amalgam fillings, are the most widely used today. Because composite fillings are tooth-colored, they can be closely matched to the color of existing teeth, and are more aesthetically suited for use in front teeth or the more visible areas of the teeth.

As with most dental restorations, composite fillings are not permanent and may someday have to be replaced. But even so, they are very durable and will last many years, giving you a long-lasting, beautiful smile.

Reasons for Composite Fillings:

How Are Composite Fillings Placed?

Composite fillings are usually placed in one appointment at Fisher & Orfaly Dental. While the tooth is numb, your dentist will remove decay as necessary. The space will then be thoroughly cleaned and carefully prepared before the new filling is placed. If the decay was near the nerve of the tooth, a special medication will be applied for added protection. The composite filling will then be precisely placed, shaped, and polished, restoring your tooth to its original shape and function.

It is normal to experience sensitivity to hot and cold when composite fillings are first placed, however, this will subside shortly after your tooth acclimates to the new filling. You will be given care instructions at the conclusion of your treatment. Good oral hygiene practices, eating habits, and regular dental visits will aid in the life of your new fillings.

Tooth Decay Treatment Cost

Tooth decay treatment cost or cavity treatment cost depends on three major factors.

Today the biggest concern for dental treatments is the high costs incurred. Apart from the regular visits, the dental treatment can be way costlier with fillings, root canals, crowns, dental bridges, and implants, or tooth extraction. The cavity treatment cost or the tooth decay treatment cost will be either fully or partially covered by your dental insurance, depending on your dental insurance plan. Visit our Insurance and Payment Plans page to learn more.

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Patient Testimonials

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Deej Twombly
October 7, 2020

Coming to Dr Orfaly is The best decision I could have made. I didn’t have a dentist for years and they saw me when I had an emergency. Now I am getting all of my dental work here, perfect caps, bridges and hygiene. I highly recommend Dr Orfaly and his staff.

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Mica Bolotin
October 28, 2020

After having a negative experience with a filling with a past dentist, I was nervous to go to a new dentist with tooth pain. Dr. Orfaly and team were very understanding and knowledgable when walking me through my options for a cracked tooth. 10/10 would recommend due to their professionalism, attention to detail, and level of care. Thanks team!

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Ashley Spencer
April 1, 2021

Dr Orfaly is the best dentist around! I have alot of anxiety around going to the dentist & Dr Orfaly always makes sure to check in to see how I'm doing & is so nice. If a referral is needed to a specialist, he makes the call for you & gets you an appt quickly (mine was even the same day) I love how they book you with the same dental hygienist for all cleanings.. Adds another level of comfort... Shoutout to mine, Kathy!


Dr. George Orfaly

About Dr. George Orfaly

Dr. George Orfaly is a Doctor of Medicine in Dentistry and has been practicing as a dentist in Salem, MA since 2005. He has consistently improved the lives of his patients by providing them relief, confidence, and healthy smiles. He believes that oral health is directly related to overall health and well-being. Dr. Orfaly has also been an active member of the American Dental Association, Massachusetts Dental Society, and North Shore District Dental Society.

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