If a tooth is already damaged by bacteria, a tooth decay treatment is needed. Without treatment, the decay progresses continuously. Also, bacteria can spread to the tooth nerve and surrounding tissues, causing severe inflammation and pain. the sooner tooth decay is detected and treated, the better the prognosis.
Tooth Decay Treatment in The Early Stage
In the early stage, tooth decay appears as white spots on the tooth surface. However, the tooth enamel stills intact. In this stage, a professional fluoride treatment will reverse the tooth decay (remineralization). The dentist uses fluoride in the form of foam, liquid, varnish, or gel. Then, he/she applies it to teeth using a brush or a dental tray. Also, you should improve your oral hygiene and eating habits. People who eat a lot of sugary foods (sweets, ice cream, and pudding) or consume drinks high in sugar (soft drinks and juices) are at high risk for tooth decay. If you can’t brush your teeth after meals, you should chew sugar-free gum to positively influence the oral pH and stimulate salivation.
Dentists recommend brushing your teeth after each meal. Note: wait at least 30 minutes after eating before you brush your teeth. Also, the toothpaste should contain fluoride. Because fluoride fights bacteria and supports the remineralization process of teeth.
Tooth Decay Treatment in The Advanced Stage
With time, the tooth decay will cause damage to the enamel surface that can’t be reversed. Also, it will extend to deeper layers, causing discomfort or pain. In the advanced stage, you should visit your dentist to remove decay and know more about the best tooth decay treatment options suitable for you. Usually, the dentist will use a dental drill to remove the decay under local anesthesia. Then, he/she will use a tooth filling to close the resulting hole. If the tooth decay reached the tooth nerve (pulp), a root canal treatment is necessary. In the advanced stage, tooth decay treatment options include:
There are various materials that the dentist uses in tooth decay treatment:
- Amalgam fillings: dentists use amalgam fillings for more than a century. Amalgam fillings are strong, the least expensive, and suitable for posterior teeth. However, they are unaesthetic, so they are not suitable for anterior teeth.
- Composite fillings: they match the color of natural teeth. Therefore, they are a popular choice.
- Glass ionomer fillings: they are less durable than other tooth fillings. They are suitable for tooth decay treatment in children’s teeth (milk teeth) and tooth necks.
- Gold fillings: they are very durable and can last for more than 15 years. However, they are expensive and unaesthetic.
- Ceramic fillings: they are aesthetic (tooth colored) and more resistant to staining in comparison with composite fillings. However, they can be as expensive as gold fillings.
Root Canal Treatment
When the decay reaches the tooth nerve (pulp), you may need a root canal treatment (RCT) to save the tooth. First, the dentist will open the tooth under local anesthesia. Then, he/she will remove infected or necrotic nerve tissues, clean root canals with dental files and seal root canals with a filling material (gutta percha). Root canal treatment may require more than one visit to the dental office.
If the tooth decay is so extensive that the tooth can no longer be filled, you may need a dental crown to restore the tooth. First, the dentist will remove the tooth decay. Then, he/she will prepare the tooth to recieve a dental crown. There are various types of dental crowns, include:
- Ceramic crowns.
- Porcelain fused to metal crowns (PFM).
- Gold crowns.
If the tooth is severely decayed and can’t be restored by the other tooth decay treatment options, it must be extracted. The dentist may recommend a dental bridge or implant after the tooth extraction to replace the missing tooth.