We'll answer your top questions about cavities in this article.

Imagine the scene: You’re sitting in the dentist’s chair, having just had x-rays taken. The dentist has come in for your exam and, while reviewing your x-rays, points to them and says the dreaded words, “Looks like you have a cavity.”

Have you sat through this very scene? If so, you’re not alone; 92% of adults have had cavities in their permanent teeth. However, even though they’re a common ailment, many patients have questions about cavities, their treatment, and prevention.

Common questions about cavities and fillings

What is a cavity?

A cavity is a result of decay, or damage, to the tooth. The bacteria within your mouth turns sugars from foods into acids. Over time, plaque buildup forms and clings to your teeth’s surfaces. The acids work their way through the outer coating of the tooth and create holes. These holes are called cavities.

How can I tell if I have a cavity?

You may experience a toothache or even sensitivity to hot, cold, or sweet foods. However, you could have a cavity and not feel any symptoms. Therefore, it’s very important to visit your dentist every six months so cavities can be caught early before they become more serious or painful.

You may have a cavity and not experience any symptoms

How is a cavity treated?

The treatment recommended will depend on the extent of the decay. Often, a tooth with a cavity can be restored with a filling. During this procedure, the decayed tooth material will be removed, the entire area will be cleaned, and your dentist will fill the cavity.

Does it hurt to get a filling?

This is one of the most asked questions about cavities. Typically, getting a filling doesn’t hurt. Your dentist will numb the area and you may feel slight pressure as the dentist works, but you shouldn’t feel pain.

Your dental team will go above and beyond to make sure you’re comfortable! If you’re nervous about pain, talk openly with the dentist about it to learn what can be done to keep you calm and pain-free.

What type of filling material should I get?

There are several filling materials available, including gold, porcelain, silver amalgam, and composite tooth-colored resin; the type of filling right for you will depend on the location of the cavity, the extent of the decay, and your budget and/or insurance coverage. Your dentist can help you choose the right material for your needs.

Will my dental insurance cover a filling?

Most insurance plans cover at least a portion of the cost of fillings. Today, there are a number of different filling options available, and cost varies depending on the type of material you choose. Many plans cover the cost of composite (tooth-colored) fillings up to the cost of amalgam (metal) fillings, while the patient is responsible for the difference.

If you’re unsure of what your plan covers or if you’d like assistance, your dental team is trained to help you navigate dental benefits and can answer your questions about cost of treatment.

How long do fillings last?

Dental fillings are durable, but they don’t last forever. Eventually, all fillings need replacement. Most fillings last between 8-15 years, but some last 20 years or more. How long your fillings last depends on a variety of factors, including the type of material used, the location of the filling, wear and tear, and how well you care for your oral hygiene overall.

How can I prevent cavities?

There are several things you can proactively do to prevent cavities and keep your smile healthy:

  • Brush and floss regularly.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Visit your dentist twice a year for checkups and cleanings.
  • Eat a balanced diet of healthy foods.
  • Avoid sugary and acidic foods and beverages that could contribute to decay.
  • Ask your dentist about fluoride treatments.
  • Ask your dentist about sealants – protective coatings applied to chewing surfaces of the teeth.

If you have any additional questions about cavities and fillings, be sure to discuss them with your skilled dental team.

The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.