Treatment Options for Tooth Decay

Posted on January 11, 2022 in General Dentistry, Oral Health Tips

A perfect smile is more than just a way for you to light up a room. It is also the gateway to your overall health, wellness, and self-confidence.
Depending on a variety of factors including genetics, medication side effects, and overall habits, some people experience tooth decay. If you’ve ever had a cavity or tooth pain, you’ll know exactly what we’re talking about.

At Smile Hilliard, we always want to ensure our patients have the information necessary to make informed decisions about their oral health. Here’s what you need to know about tooth decay and the various treatment options available.

What is Tooth Decay?Elderly Man Sitting in Dental Chair Smiling Into Handheld Mirror

Tooth decay is simply a breakdown of the tooth enamel. Most people who have been to a dentist in the past know this as having a cavity. It is usually caused by a buildup of plaque on the tooth, but can also be present due to various acids in foods and beverages.

There are varying degrees to which tooth decay can affect your overall oral health. While a small amount of damage to your tooth enamel might not seem like a big deal, it can lead to much larger problems in the future, such as damage to the pulp of the tooth where nerves, blood vessels, and connective tissues are contained.

What Are the Most Common Symptoms of Tooth Decay?

In most cases, individuals with tooth decay have no symptoms of the issue. Most cavities are generally uncovered during routine appointments when your dentist examines your mouth for potential issues.

However, there are little indicators that might signal a potential problem. For example, if you routinely suffer from halitosis, also known as bad breath, then you likely have other symptoms of tooth decay. Pain, sensitivity, and difficulty biting can all be key signs it is time to schedule an appointment with your dentist.

In addition, abscesses that cause serious facial pain, fever, and nausea are a symptom of severe tooth decay. If you’re experiencing this issue, give us a call immediately to set up an emergency appointment.

Tooth Decay Treatment Options

The course of treatment for tooth decay largely depends on the level of decay and the discomfort you’re experiencing. If a cavity is noticed early enough, there’s a good chance certain precautions and habit changes can keep it from developing into something worse.

Likewise, untreated tooth decay can require a much more drastic course of treatment. In that scenario, you could be looking at the need for a root canal or even a tooth extraction.

Keep reading to learn about the most common types of treatment for tooth decay and what each one entails.

Fluoride Treatments

The most common type of early treatment for tooth decay is fluoride. This handy mineral helps strengthen tooth enamel and makes it less likely that you’ll develop a cavity or the one you have will worsen.

Available in a gel or foam, fluoride is commonly used during dental appointments and only takes mere moments to administer. At home, you can help reduce chances of tooth decay by using a fluoride toothpaste or oral rinse.

Fluoride is often used as a preventative treatment, too. For example, pediatric dental patients are generally given a fluoride treatment to help strengthen their baby teeth and prevent future problems as adult teeth grow in.

Dental Fillings

Once a cavity has formed, it usually requires a dental filling. This process involves your dentist using a special drill to meticulously remove the decayed portion of the tooth while it is anesthetized. Next, she carefully fills the hole with one of several types of composite resin.
In most instances, dental fillings are generally painless and unnoticeable. But the process is important, as it can keep the damage from spreading deeper into the tooth or to the adjacent tooth. And, yes, even children who still have their baby teeth can receive dental fillings, too.

Crowns

The next step in treatment options for tooth decay based on severity is a dental crown. During this process, your dentist works to remove the area of the tooth with a significant amount of decay. Then they add a temporary crown to protect the spot, while also taking special measurements for a permanent replacement.

A few weeks later, the patient returns for a follow-up appointment and a permanent crown is inserted. At this point, the damage from the tooth decay is gone and no longer spreading to other healthy teeth.

Root Canals

If the damage from the tooth decay has gotten particularly bad, it might be time for a root canal. This is a process where a dentist numbs the tooth before removing the damaged pulp. From there, the root canal is cleaned and shaped accordingly.

If evidence of an infection is present, your dentist might also add a special medication to help remove bacteria. Finally, the tooth is filled with a rubber-like dental substance and a temporary crown or cap is added. In a few weeks, you’ll return for another appointment where you’ll receive a permanent crown.

This is often seen as the last effort before tooth extraction, which can be much costlier and more painful.

Tooth Extraction

Finally, there’s tooth extraction. This is when your dentist or an oral surgeon removes the tooth completely, leaving room for a future dental implant. Usually, tooth extractions are only done when there’s really no other possible treatment option available.

How to Prevent Tooth Decay

If everything we’ve discussed here seems a little scary, that’s okay. The good news is that proper brushing, flossing, and regular dental checkups are the easiest ways to avoid tooth decay and keep your smile looking great.

And this goes for your children, as well. Promoting good habits from the very beginning like proper brushing techniques and making a priority for oral hygiene in the day can help prevent these types of issues later in life.

Wrap Up: Treatment Options for Tooth Decay

While tooth decay is something that everyone will likely experience at some point in their life, there are still many excellent treatment options available. But they all start with that first step in coming in for a routine exam.

If you’re ready to combat tooth decay and keep your teeth looking great, please give our Smile Hilliard team a call. We’ll be more than happy to schedule an appointment and help you come up with the right tooth decay treatment option for your needs.