Can You Fix Tooth Decay

When most people realize they have a cavity, the usual response it to make an appointment with their dentist to seek treatment.  A common misconception is that fillings are the only treatment option available for fixing tooth decay and cavities.  While fillings may ultimately be appropriate, there are several other options that can be used to treat and prevent tooth decay which will be discussed in this article.

Professional Treatment Options

  • Fluoride treatments:  If a cavity is in its earliest stages, fluoride treatments may be able to restore tooth enamel and, in some cases, can reverse the cavity.  Fluoride levels in professional treatments is higher than those founds in toothpastes, mouth rinses, and tap water.
  • Fillings:  The most common restoration treatment option when a cavity has advanced past its earliest stage.  Fillings can be made from various materials including porcelain, dental amalgam, and composite resins.
  • Crowns:  If decay is extensive or the teeth weakened, crowns can be used to replace the entire surface area of the tooth.  To place the crown, the dentist drills away any decayed areas and places the custom-fitted crown over the remaining tooth ensuring a good fit. Crowns are made of porcelain, porcelain fused to metal, gold, or resin.
  • Root canals:  If decay has infected the inner tooth pulp, a root canal may be needed to clear out the infection.  Root canal is often used to repair a badly infected or damaged tooth rather than extracting it.  After the infected pulp is removed, it is replaced with a filling.
  • Extraction:  When decay is so advanced or fails to respond to other treatment, the tooth may have to be removed (extracted).  Because this can leave a gap and create spacing issues for other teeth, a bridge or dental implant may be recommended to replace the extracted tooth.

At-home Treatment/Prevention

  • Dietary changes:  It is widely known that plaque and tartar buildup ultimately lead to tooth decay.  The bacteria in plaque feed on sugars and starches which can result in cavities.  Modifying the diet to reduce sugars and starches can be beneficial in preventing cavity formation and could actually reverse any cavities in their initial stage.
  • Modify oral care routine:  One of the best ways to manage cavities is to prevent them from forming in the first place.  As such, having a thorough oral care routine that properly cleans the teeth and gums is essential to overall oral health and the prevention of decay.
  • Flossing should be done at least once per day to remove any food from under the gums.  Brushing should be done twice daily ensuring all surfaces, corners, pockets, and crevices are cleaned.  Antibacterial mouthwash can also be incorporated to address any hard to reach areas.  If additional fluoride is recommended by a dentist, at-home fluoride rinses can also be used.
  • Use supplements and vitamins:  Incorporating vitamin and nutrient rich foods can ensure the essential macro nutrients needed to minimize inflammation, keep bones and teeth strong, and prevent cavities.  If these nutrients are not obtained directly from food sources, patients may consider supplementing their diet with vitamins to ensure proper balance.

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