There are three different layers that make up the tooth. The inner-most layer is called the pulp which is made of cells, tissues and nerves. Above that is the dentin that is primarily made up of calcium. And then comes the outer- most layer called the enamel which also happens to be hardest of all three layers.
Normally, the enamel would act as a protective barrier between the inner teeth and harmful bacteria that could cause harm to the same. However, in certain cases, the enamel tends to wear away with time due to factors like plaque, tartar and bacteria buildup which gradually erode the outer layer and start attacking the dentin. With time (and improper care), the decay would spread to the pulp and result in rotten teeth that would need to be treated professionally by a dentist.
How to Spot Rotten Teeth
There are different treatments available for teeth in varying stages of decay. And so it would be easier to get a rotten tooth fixed earlier on to avoid complex treatments. Here are some signs that would help you spot a rotten tooth so that you can get it fixed quickly and easily.
The first signs of tooth decay would surely start with a bad breath that would indicate that your rotten tooth is dying. A foul smell would remain in your mouth even if you brush your teeth at regular intervals.
Black or Discolored Teeth
A cavity is the starting stage of a rotten tooth. With negligence or improper care, the cavity would widen and the plaque/bacteria present in the cavity would start eroding the enamel. With time the enamel, dentin and pulp would wear off leaving a tooth that would look black or extremely discolored.
As the bacteria eat away the outer enamel, the inner dentin layer would become exposed. This would increase tooth sensitivity to a great extent. As a result exposure to hot, cold, sweet, sour or even salty foods and drinks can cause pain or numbness.
Difference in Tooth Sizes
As the bacteria erode the enamel, dentin and pulp, the rotten tooth would start shrinking in size. With time, you would be have noted that the tooth would considerably smaller when compared to neighboring teeth.
The final stage of a rotten tooth is tooth loss. By this time, there would be nothing left inside the tooth or the gums holding it. When the root dies, the nerves and tissues connected to the tooth collapse, causing tooth loss.
Types for Dental Procedures
Rotten teeth can be extreme causes for embarrassment and can become harbingers of much more serious ailments like gum diseases, heart diseases and so on. Therefore it is imperative to take care of them then and there. There are different kinds of dental procedures available to correct rotten teeth.
These procedures would focus on killing the bacteria causing the tooth decay and reversing damages done to the tooth as well. The treatment type would depend on the severity of the situation. Given below are some of the more common dental procedures that are often recommended for rotten teeth.
High Concentration Fluoride Treatment
The initial stages of a rotten tooth can be easily treated using a high concentration fluoride treatment. The treatment would aim at restoring tooth enamel and preventing further damage to the tooth.
The dentist would evaluate the severity of the decay and opt for a fluoride treatment only if he/she feels the issue can be treated properly with the same. Proper follow up treatments and good oral hygiene are considered musts for the high concentration fluoride treatment.
Dental Fillings Procedure
Dental cavities are usually formed when the bacteria wear away the enamel and start eating into the dentin layer of the teeth. In case the decay has not reached the pulp layer beneath the dentin, dentists would recommend a dental filling to take care of the rotten tooth.
Accordingly, the dentist would apply local anesthesia to numb the area in and around the affected tooth. He/she would then cut out enamel and dentin from around the affected tooth using a dental drill. Once the affected dentin and enamel have been removed, the dentist would apply some acid over the tooth surface to etch it. The process is finished by adding a filling over the tooth surface to seal it off completely.
Based on the exact position of the rotten tooth in the mouth, you can choose from a variety of materials used for dental fillings. A rotten tooth at the back of the mouth would not be that visible and so can be filled using amalgams fillings of copper, mercury, silver, zinc and tin. If the tooth that needs to be filled is present at the front of the mouth, you can opt for composite, acrylic fillings that would resemble your original teeth in appearance.
In case your mouth does not support both kinds of fillings, you would need to opt for gold cast fillings which are comparatively stronger, more durable and would suit individuals who have a strong bite. The only let down is the cost factor though.
Root Canal Procedure
In case the tooth decay has progressed to the dentin and is in the process of reaching the pulp as well, a root canal would be needed to reduce infection in the tissues and nerves. In this case, the dentist would remove all traces of infected enamel, dentin and pulp in order to prevent further infection.
The dentist would begin by applying local anesthesia to the affected area. Once the numbness sets in, the dentist would open the infected tooth with a dental drill. Using a file, he/she would then remove infected enamel and dentin, and remove any part of the pulp that is visible or infected as well. Once the infected area is cleaned, the dentist would cap the tooth with a crown to strengthen it.
As in the case of dental fillings, individuals can opt for different types of crowns to cover the treated tooth. Some of the more common (and comfortable) options include porcelain, silver, amalgam and gold etc. The type of crown chosen for the root canal procedure would also depend on the condition of your teeth and gums.
Tooth Extraction Procedure
In case the tooth decay has progressed to the extent where a dental filling or root canal would not be enough to treat the rotten tooth, the dentist would have no other option but to remove the tooth altogether in order to prevent the infection from spreading to neighboring teeth.
A tooth extraction would also be the best way to treat a rotten tooth in case the infected root beneath the rotten tooth causes an abscess. Damage to the jawbone and pus secretion would also result in a tooth extraction procedure.
As in the previous cases, the dentist would administer local anesthesia to numb the tissues and nerves surrounding the rotten tooth. He/she would then drain the infected area of any pus or bacteria before pulling out the rotten tooth. Once the tooth is removed, the dentist would pack some gauze in the extraction site to control bleeding and further infection.
If needed, he/she may also place a spacer above the extraction site to make sure there is enough space for a new tooth or a dental bridge. After the procedure, the dentist would prescribe some antibiotics and painkillers to reduce pain and prevent further infection at the extraction site or nearby. You would be required to visit him/her at least once after the procedure to make sure the infection has not spread.