Tooth decay is a process that causes dental caries and cavities in the mouth. It occurs when bacterial build up causes the formation of a sticky substance called as plaque on the surface of the tooth. This plaque then turns into tartar and corrodes the tooth. Bacteria feed on food debris and particles and produce a strong acid that starts damaging your teeth, causing dental decay and caries.
Untreated dental decay can lead to acute pain, tooth abscess and infection and even tooth loss where the tooth decay is so extensive that you need to extract the tooth. You can prevent tooth decay by regular brushing and flossing. Despite the above if, you still suffer from tooth decay there are some specific procedures, which can fix and treat decaying teeth. These can help to save the tooth.
Ways to Treat Decaying Teeth
Proper Brushing and Flossing
Very mild tooth decay can be treated with the help of fluoride toothpaste. The use of a good mouthwash along with regular brushing and flossing can protect your teeth from further decay.
The most common procedure for treating a cavity is the use of a filling. Cavities are holes in the tooth. Superficial cavities can be easily filled with a special filling material that is available at your doctor’s office. The doctor in most cases does a permanent filling, which fills up the carious part of the tooth and protects the tooth from future bacterial invasion.
The filling procedure is done with or without a local anaesthetic depending on the depth of the cavity. A numbing gel is applied on your gums and the anaesthetic is then injected into your gums to numb the tooth and its surrounding region.
The dentist then uses a drill to remove the decayed part of the tooth. Amalgam is the most common filling used for a tooth. It is made up of mercury, silver, tin or other metals. It is a permanent filling and gives good protection to the carious tooth. Other fillings are composite fillings, which use resin. These are the natural colour of the tooth. You can use these fillings if the appearance of your teeth is very important to you.
They are cheaper than gold fillings. Lonomers are used for very small and mild cavities that superficially occur on the surface of the tooth. Golf fillings are often used by select clientele primarily for their brand value. Permanent fillings can last you for years. If the filling has come off, get it replaced immediately to prevent further decay of the tooth.
Root Canal Treatment
This is also known as endodontic surgery and is a more extensive procedure for treating a carious tooth. It is done when the carie is so deep that it will damage or kill the tooth. This is done in deep cavities, which have passed the dentin layer of the tooth and have caused a possible tooth infection.
The procedure involves the removal of the pulp of the tooth along with the blood vessels. This kills the tooth and removes all pain. The hollow portion of the tooth is then filled with a special root canal filling. In this procedure, the dentist first administers a local anaesthetic to numb the tooth and the gums. Drilling tools and equipment along with a tooth bore are used to remove the pulp or the infected area of the tooth.
The tooth is filled with medicines or a temporary filling material. The procedure of root canal takes at least 2-3 sittings to be completed. Once the entire pulp has been removed, the dentist puts a final dental filling. This is followed by the placement of a crown on the surface of the tooth to protect the tooth. A temporary crown may be fitted until a permanent crown is made and fitted into place.
A crown is used to fit over the decayed, broken or damaged tooth. It is like a shiny new outer coating for the tooth. Crowns are extensively used for teeth that have been damaged and destroyed to such an extent that they cannot be saved by a mere filling. Crowns are usually made up of porcelain, metal or ceramic. Before the fitment of a crown, the dentist will drill out the decay, do a root canal or fill the tooth.
An impression of the tooth is taken to cast a mould for the crown. During the fitment of the crown and removal of decay, anaesthesia may be administered. Once the permanent crown is ready, it is fitted on the tooth. You are asked to bite on a carbon paper to see how well the crown as been fitted to the tooth. In case the crown does not sit well, it is sent for polishing and reshaping. Dental crowns have become a popular way of fixing broken, chipped and carious teeth.
If a tooth is severely damaged, extraction may be the only option. Even a crown or a root canal will not save the tooth. Tooth extractions can be quite painful and hence a local anaesthetic may be administered. If several teeth have to be taken out at one go, the doctor may consider the possibility of general anaesthesia in which you are put to sleep.
This prevents pain in the entire body. If the wound resulting from the extracted tooth is deep, stitches may be given. After that, you will be given a gauze to bite down on. Once the bleeding stops, a blood clot forms which progresses to healing. A dental implant, bridge or a denture thereafter replaces the removed tooth. Pain may occur for which the doctor will administer some routine painkillers.
Porcelain veneers may also be placed on broken or chipped teeth. These are outer coverings for the tooth and help to enhance the natural shape, size and colour of the tooth. Veneers should be used as a last resort only as they are very expensive. The average cost of a good set of dental veneers costs anywhere between $ 7000 – $ 10000. This can make them an expensive proposition.