When it comes to dental cavities, having them filled can bring about a lot of relief. Not only is the cavity completely removed, ridding you of any pain you might have had, but the filling will replace any of your tooth’s structure that was lost to decay, making it stronger and restoring its function. Unfortunately, even with a filling in place, your tooth is still susceptible to developing decay underneath the filling. This is known as recurrent decay, and while it might not be as common as primary decay, it can still cause a lot of problems for your smile.
What Is Recurrent Decay & How Can You Develop It?
When your dentist drills out a cavity and fills it in, the filling is bonded to your tooth. This bonding helps seal the filling in, helping to keep bacteria and food particles from getting underneath it and causing decay. Over time, this bond can weaken, leading to tooth decay under fillings, also known as recurrent decay.
Recurrent decay will develop when there are gaps, spaces, or leakage around the outer margins of your dental restoration. The most common causes for this are excessive teeth grinding, chewing, or biting down hard due to anxiety or stress, which cause cracks and chips to develop. Once there is cracking, gaps, or spacing, bacteria can enter the filling at the edges where it meets your tooth, leading to decay underneath the filling. It can be quite difficult to tell if a filling is compromised by just looking at it, which is why you need a dentist to run a routine check on your fillings.
Symptoms to Watch For With Tooth Decay Under Fillings
There are a few symptoms you can watch out for that might indicate that there is tooth decay underneath your filling.
- Persistent toothache or sensitivity.
- Visible cracks or chips in your dental restoration.
- Brown/black staining around the edges of the filling.
- A change in how your filling fits your tooth.
- A bad taste (or bad breath) in your mouth that doesn’t go away.
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s important that you see your dentist right away, as they can evaluate the filling and form a plan to remove the developing cavity and fix the dental filling. Failure to catch a developing cavity underneath a filling can result in an infection that can spread to the dental pulp leading to tooth loss, or potentially a tooth abscess.
Treatment for Tooth Decay Under a Filling
If tooth decay under a filling is suspected, an x-ray will be taken to determine the extent of the decay and to see if the decay has reached the dental pulp. If the decay is small, it is possible to remove the filling, treat the cavity, and place in a new filling. However, if the decay has progressed significantly, a dental crown may be required if there isn’t enough tooth structure to hold a new filling.
If you think you have recurrent decay, be sure to reach out to our dental office and book an appointment to get looked at. Early detection is critical for creating a treatment plan that will work for you, prevent further damage to your teeth, and help preserve your smile.