Portrait of a beautiful woman at the dentist getting her teeth checked - oral health concepts

How are Cavities Treated?

In most cases, patients are not able to catch cavities in the early stages because they come when they feel pain and sensitivity or cannot tolerate the pain in their teeth – which means that the cavity has progressed and grown in the tooth to a certain degree. Thus, it would lead one to question, how are cavities treated?

Do Cavities Heal on their own?

The simple answer is no. They do not go away on their own! Tooth decay is permanent damage that is done to the teeth and need to be addressed as soon as possible so that it involves less treatment time, is less expensive, and less invasive treatment for the patient. Tooth decay and pain just get worse as time passes so it is imperative for patients to get regular checks for early detection.

There are some patients that feel even small amounts of pain, but some just tolerate and endure the pain thinking that it will go away on its own, but this is never the case! The pain will just keep getting worse! The best thing to do is to go in for a checkup to see if it is a cavity or other dental problem that needs to be addressed!

What are the methods of treatment?

The dentist will start with a scan / x-ray of the tooth and an examination of the affected area. With the combination of the two, the dentist will be able to determine and diagnose what stage of tooth decay the patient is at and inform the patient of the recommended course of treatment. If the patient agrees to the course of treatment, they can proceed.

For the first stage of tooth decay, to help treat the demineralization and damage in the enamel, fluoride treatment can be done to help the tooth. The treatment will help strengthen the outer layer of the tooth (the enamel). However, it may not do help with the white spot discoloration.  

The second stage of tooth decay which is at the enamel, the outer layer of the tooth, the tooth decay causes holes in the tooth (also known as cavities). The cavities look like dark spots on the tooth from the discoloration that is also caused during this stage. The treatment for this stage of tooth decay is to get fillings. Amalgam fillings are discouraged as they contain metal in it; at the Oaks Dental Clinic, amalgam fillings are not done, only resin which has the similar color to normal teeth.

The third stage of tooth decay is at the dentin layer which is the layer found beneath the enamel. Depending on how early the detection is, the patient may receive a filling or they may need to go further and get a partial crown (an inlay or onlay) depending on the size of the cavity. In more serious cases where it is more advanced and is close or near the pulp, the dentist may recommend getting a root canal.

The fourth stage of tooth decay is at level of the pulp – the bacteria and decay has reached the innermost layer of the tooth. The treatment to pulp damage is to get a root canal and a crown. A zirconia crown is recommended for teeth that has had a root canal because the tooth is weakened with a root canal and the zirconia crown is the strongest which will allow it to better protect the tooth. Moreover, zirconia crowns are especially recommended if the tooth with the root canal is a front tooth because teeth that have root canals turn dark and the darkness can be seen through crowns made with other materials than zirconia as they tend to be more translucent.

The fifth stage of tooth decay is an infection called an abscess. In this case, it will again depend on how far the infection has progressed. If the tooth can be saved, the dentist will perform a root canal and put a crown on it. However, if the infection has progressed to much, the dentist may recommend extraction.

Prevention is Key!

Cavities can be prevented with good oral hygiene routine, regular cleanings and checkups with the dentist. Cleanings (also known as scaling) are needed to prevent the build up of plaque which play a large part in creating the acids that cause tooth decay! Checkups are great for early detection! Most importantly, regular brushing and flossing help prevent the buildup of plaque which is an essential thing to do after each meal!