Plaque is the soft whitish-yellow substance sometimes found on teeth. It is made up of food and bacteria. If plaque is left on tooth structure for a long enough time period, the bacteria start to eat the tooth structure, causing tooth decay or cavities. Cavities may arise:
1. In the grooves / fissures / chewing surfaces of teeth
2. In between the teeth
3. Along root surfaces (known as root decay)
4. Along the margins of old fillings (requiring the replacement of the filling)
The risk of root decay increases as you get older, and is one of the main dental problems of seniors.
Cavities are usually fixed with white fillings, in a shade to match the existing tooth structure. Silver fillings are occasionally done, if requested by the patient, or deemed necessary by the dentist.
If the cavity is left to grow, it may infect the tooth’s nerve. This usually causes pain. To fix this a root canal may be needed.
If the cavity grows even bigger, the tooth may need to be extracted.