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Can You Get Cavities Filled With Braces On?

By September 2, 2022 No Comments
a woman with braces visiting the dentist

If you have braces, you know that installation was no simple task. If you or your dentist find a cavity once you have your braces installed, it can make some people nervous, because they don’t know if it’s possible to get the cavity filled while leaving the braces intact. This is a valid concern because the effort to remove a portion of the braces and replace them later is considerable.

We’re going to look at the problem of getting cavities filled while having braces on, and whether or not it’s possible to have it done in the first place. Then we’ll take a look at the different types of fillings that are used to remediate cavities, as well as what you should expect from the process of getting a cavity filled if you’ve never had it done before. In the end, you should have a firm understanding of cavities and whether they can be addressed without removing your braces.

What Is A Cavity?

Your teeth are covered in the hardest substance that the body can create, but that doesn’t make them impervious to all damage. A cavity is an area of the tooth that has been damaged permanently in such a way that it creates a small hole, opening or “cavity”. Cavities are the physical manifestation of the process of tooth decay, and if that decay isn’t treated it can become worse and begin to affect other teeth and oral health in general. Cavities that are allowed to worsen can result in toothaches, headaches, tooth loss, and serious infection.

Cavities are some of the most prevalent health conditions in children, teens, and the elderly, even though anyone with a tooth can develop cavities. The development of cavities is often caused by snacking and excess sugar, coupled with poor oral hygiene. This contributes to sugary remnants being left on the teeth, which contributes to damaging bacteria growth on and around the teeth.

cavity process presented on tooth models

How Do I Know If I Have A Cavity?

There are many signs and symptoms that can point to the presence of a cavity, and each case will be different depending on the severity of the cavity and where it’s located. A cavity is only the first large indication of a growing problem with tooth decay. Once a cavity appears, it’s likely that the individual will experience symptoms that can include:

  • Toothaches, whether constant or sporadic
  • Having elevated tooth sensitivity, which can feel like a sharp pain that is felt when the tooth feels intense hot or cold sensations
  • Mild to sharp pain when eating or drinking in general
  • Obvious, visible holes in your teeth
  • Staining on your teeth, whether white, brown, or black
  • Sudden pain when biting down on something

There are times when you may not be aware that a cavity is forming until it is too late. This is a primary reason why it’s important to get periodic dental checkups. Your dentist or oral health professional will be able to tell you that you have a problem developing well before you’re able to feel the negative effects of the decay. If you suddenly develop any of the symptoms listed above, however, it’s urgent that you see a dentist as soon as possible.

Developing A Cavity With Braces On

Developing a cavity when you have braces is actually incredibly common. The braces have a twofold influence on this. Firstly, the braces physically trap food particles and provide countless crevices and surfaces for bacteria to grow and develop after eating. Secondly, they can be a challenge to clean thoroughly, which can contribute to their tendency to provide circumstances just right for cavities to form.

Can Cavities Be Filled With Braces On?

Cavities can be filled with braces in nearly all situations. Since developing cavities is so common with braces, having them filled is much more commonplace than many people realize. Cavities in general are incredibly common, as are braces, so it only makes sense that dentists would develop methods to fill cavities with the braces still installed.

In most cases, the cavity can even be filled without removing the wires. However, there are situations and circumstances where your dentist will need to remove the wire to access the cavity to fill it. In rare circumstances, the dentist may need to remove the wire and a bracket, if the cavity is on the front of the tooth.

closeup of person's mouth and dentist's tools

Types Of Fillings Commonly Used

Depending on the preferences of the patient and the requirements of their dental situation, there are several different filling materials that may be used in the filling of your cavity. Each will have different benefits, lifespan, and relative strength. Below are the most common.

Amalgam

Amalgam fillings are one of the oldest types, and amalgam has been used in one form or another for more than a century for dental fillings. Amalgam is the most researched and arguably the most trusted filling material. They are incredibly strong and are commonly used in the back of the mouth for teeth such as molars, where there is a lot of pressure from chewing. While amalgam fillings are relatively cheap, they are also one of the most noticeable when laughing, smiling, or in some cases, speaking.

Composite

Composite fillings are also referred to as filled resins and they are created from a combination of quartz, or sometimes glass. They can be easily colored to match the shade of the tooth it is filling, and they are also relatively strong fillings. They can often be found in midsized restorations, but can only be used in areas of the mouth that experience moderate chewing.

Metal

Incorporating a precious metal into your amalgam is nothing new. Gold and silver amalgam have been around for decades, and are the most common metals that are currently used for amalgam fillings. Gold fillings are considerably more expensive than their silver counterparts, but for those who want a durable filling solution, it is the prime choice. Metal fillings can be stronger than composite fillings, and even though many dislike their appearance, they can last as long as 10-15 years in some cases.

Ceramic

Ceramic cavity fillings are often made from a similar porcelain composition as dental veneers. They are designed to be very close to the same tooth color as the original. Ceramic fillings are also nice because they are much less likely to show discoloration or stains over time. One of the big drawbacks to ceramic fillings, however, is that they are not cheap, and a ceramic filling may end up costing as much as a gold filling.

Glass Ionomer

Glass ionomers are super-new materials made from acrylic and glass, and while it functions as a gap filler, it also constantly releases fluoride to help keep the teeth healthy. While they have the feature of fluoride release, glass ionomer fillings also have a reduced strength compared to other filing types, and may need to be replaced every 5-8 years.

What To Expect When Having A Cavity Filled

While you may not have a long list of preparations to make before your cavity filling, you should make sure that you have followed any prep instructions your dentist has provided. For example, if certain anesthetics are used, the patient may be asked to fast before the procedure.

Anesthetic

The first thing you will often need to undergo is the injection of the local anesthetic. This will turn off your pain receptors in the area that your dentist will be working on. In some cases, you may also get nitrous oxide, which helps sedate you further and helps relieve any lingering pain from the dental procedure.

In situations where the patient suffers from elevated anxiety, there may be the option for sedation dentistry, which involves administering a substance that puts the patient under for the procedure. This is becoming more and more accessible for those who have anxiety or even panic.

In most cases, though, there will only be minor irritation during and after the procedure. This means a numbing gel or local anesthetic is often more than enough to make the procedure bearable.

Preparation Of The Damaged Tooth

Once you’ve been anesthetized, your dentist will begin to remove the decay and any remaining damaged tooth material. This is usually done with a handheld rotary tool and a water jet, which loosens and flushes away damaged tooth enamel and pulp. In other cases, a laser may be used for the same purpose. To finish preparation they apply a special gel to the area that helps clean the tooth and to sterilize it before the filling.

Filling Application

To begin, your dentist will apply an adhesive material that increases the adhesion and bonding of the filling. The filling material is applied to the cavity and a special light is used to harden the resin in the compound. This process of adding composite and hardening it will be repeated several times to build up the area and seal all of the area missing from decay. This helps to seal the area against further rot and decay.

Wrapping Up

After applying the filling material, your dentist will take some time to add some finishing touches. This includes smoothing the edges of the filling and helping to mold it in with the contour of the tooth. They will also polish the filling material so that it more closely resembles your natural tooth material.

This will not only help it look more natural, but it will help your filling to feel more natural in your mouth. There will generally be a bite test to ensure the filling isn’t too tall, but if it is they can simply mold it further.

demonstration of cavity filling on a tooth model

Caring For Your Filling & Avoiding Further Problems

Once the process is completed and your cavity has been filled, it’s important that you take care of the filling in the future to avoid additional complications from continued tooth decay. While fillings are strong, they aren’t invincible, and they can be damaged.

Be sure that once you have healed and are back to normal, you continue to engage in good oral hygiene practices on a regular basis. This includes remembering to brush and floss at least daily, but when you brush you won’t need to adjust your technique at all, simply brush your teeth as you normally would. As an additional protective measure, you should be sure to use mouthwash to eliminate any remaining bacteria following brushing.

Maintain Your Oral Health With Dental Essentials

Cavities can be intimidating, but the best way to avoid them entirely is to take care of your teeth with daily oral hygiene. To make this simple, you can find all of your dental essentials in one place at Dr. Brite, where you can get essentials for you and the whole family, from tooth brushing to whitening.

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