Frequently-Asked Questions

Frequently-Asked Questions

Tooth Decay & Cavities

What is tooth decay?

Tooth decay is a disease that damages and breaks down the layers of your teeth.  When you eat and drink, bacteria in your mouth feed on the sugars that are found in these foods and drinks.  The bacteria create acids that break down the enamel.

What are cavities and what causes them?

A cavity is a hole in your tooth that forms from tooth decay.

When tooth decay gets through your enamel, a cavity can form.  Once the cavity forms in your enamel, it can continue to spread deeper in the layers of your tooth.

Only a licensed dental professional can treat and repair your tooth once a cavity has formed.

If the cavity gets to the pulp of your tooth, bacteria from the mouth can infect the nerves in your tooth.  This can be very painful.  An abscess (or pus-filled sac) can form and even become a serious, life-threatening infection if it is not treated.

Who gets cavities?

Anybody can get dental decay, but you may be increasing your risk if you:

  • often sip and snack on foods and drinks that are high in sugars, like sodas, sports drinks, and even juice
  • drink bottled water and other water without fluoride
  • have a dry mouth (don’t make enough saliva) often because you take certain medications
  • have weak enamel because of your family history or a childhood illness
  • don’t brush twice daily and clean between your teeth once a day
  • don’t visit your dentist regularly

A cavity that isn’t treated can lead to pain, loss of teeth, and even loss of confidence.  If you have tooth pain, you might not be able to get through your daily routine.  You also may not be able to eat or sleep properly and couuld miss days of work or school.

Can cavities be passed from person to person?

Not exactly, but the bacteria that cause tooth decay can be shared.  Bacteria can be passed by kissing, sharing a cup or spoon, or anything else that carries a drop of saliva from one mouth to the other.  Parents: do not share your toothbrush with your child!

How do I know if I have a cavity?

Tooth decay can get worse quickly, but it often takes months or years for a cavity to develop.  Signs of a cavity can include:

  • a white spot on your tooth that doesn’t go away after brushing
  • loose fillings or crowns
  • sensitivity to heat or cold
  • tooth pain

You may notice one or more of these signs.  Or, you may not notice any signs at all.  The best way to tell if you have a cavity is to visit your dentist for regular appointments.

How are cavities treated?

What needs to be done to treat your cavity will depend on how far inside your tooth the decay has spread.  Cavities will require some type of filling.  This means that the dentist will fill the hole in your tooth with a material that will act as part of your enamel and protect it from anhy more damage.

If your cavity is very large, a filling may not be enough.  Your tooth may need to have a crown, an inlay or an onlay placed on it.

If the nerves of your tooth are infected, you may need a root canal treatment.

If your tooth is badly damaged from a cavity, then it may have to be removed.  Your dentist will talk with you about your options and the best way to get your mouth healthy again.

It is easier and more affordable to prevent tooth decay than to repair a decayed tooth!

Gum Disease

What is gum disease?

Gum disease, also called periodontal disease, is very common.  It affects people of all ages, and many do not even know they have it.

Gum disease is an infection that affects the tissues and bone that support your teeth.

Healthy gum tissue fits like a cuff around each of your teeth.  When you have gum disease, the gum tissue pulls away from your tooth.  As the disease gets worse, the tissue and bone that support your tooth are destroyed.  Over time, teeth may fall out or need to be removed.  Treating gum disease in the early stages can help keep tooth loss from happening.


How will I know if I have gum disease?

It can be hard to know.  You can have gum disease without clear signs of it.  That’s why regular dental exams are so important.

If you notice any of these signs, give us a call to schedule an exam:

  • gums that bleed during brushing and flossing
  • red, swollen or sensitive gums
  • gums that have pulled away from your teeth
  • bad breath that doesn’t go away
  • pus between your teeth and gums
  • loose or separating teeth
  • a change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite
  • a change in the fit of your partial dentures



What causes gum disease?

Gum disease is caused by plaque.  Plaque contains bacteria that produce acid.  If your teeth are not cleaned well, the acid can irritate your gums and make them swollen and red.

Swollen and red gums can pull away from your teeth and form spaces called pockets.  These pockets provide a space for more bacteria.  If the infected pockets are not treated, then the disease can get worse.  The bone and other tissues that support your teeth are damaged.

Periodontitis disease

What other things may increase my risk of gum disease?

The main cause of periodontal (gum) disease is plaque, but other factors affect the health of your gums, including:

  • using tobacco products of any kind, including e-cigarettes
  • diseases like diabetes, blood cell disorders, and HIV infections and AIDS that lowers the body’s resistance to infection, making gum diseases worse
  • crooked teeth or worn, loose or cracked fillings that may hold plaque in place
  • pregnancy, use of birth control pills, or changes in female hormone levels
  • certain medicines, such as steroids, some anti-epilepsy drugs, cancer therapy drugs, and some calcium channel blockers
  • stress
  • genetics (family traits)



What is the treatment for gum disease?

Patients with gum disease usually need more dental visits than a patient without gum disease.  Your dental team can treat the disease with deep cleanings, sometimes combined with medication, to treat the infection.  You may need extra treatment if your gum disease is too far along and a deep cleaning by itself won’t heal your infection completely.

You can figure gum disease with good oral care, regular dental visits, a healthy diet, and by saying “no” to tobacco products, including e-cigarettes.

New Patients Are Always Welcome!

Please call us if you have any questions or
would like to schedule your appointment.

We look forward to meeting you!

(970) 249-2533

Willden Family Dental

204 S. Uncompahgre Avenue
Montrose, CO 81401


Monday By appointment only
Tuesday 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM
Wednesday 8:00 AM to 2:00 PM
Thursday 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM
Friday 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM