Treating tooth decay: the dentist's treatments

Dossier : Tooth decay: how does it develop? How can it be prevented?

treating tooth decay

Tooth decay, once the cavity has formed, never heals by itself. It is therefore necessary to visit a dentist. During the appointment, the dentist will select the treatment they consider the most appropriate in light of the stage of development the decay is at. The older the cavity, the longer your tooth has been under attack, and the greater the dentist's intervention will need to be. Better to deal with it as early as possible in order to maintain your dental health. 

STAGES 1 AND 2: STRAIGHTFORWARD TOOTH DECAY 

If the tooth decay is only affecting the enamel and the dentine, the dentist removes the damaged tissue and plugs the holes with 'filling material'. The most common are:

  • dental amalgams, silver coloured, contain silver and mercury and harden within a few hours of application

  • resin-based composites which are natural tooth-coloured. They harden instantly

  • dentists can also treat cavities with inlays and onlays. Made out of ceramic or metal from a cast of the tooth, they are more expensive than amalgams and composites

Whichever technique is proposed by the dentist, the aim of the treatment is to stop the tooth decay spreading and to ensure a proper seal exists in order to prevent any recurrence. 

CAVITY TREATMENT: FITTING A COMPOSITE

STAGE 3: TOOTHACHE

If the tooth decay attacks the dental pulp, the dentist must remove the tooth's nerve and then disinfect the root canal before filling it. The tooth is devitalised. 

TOOTH DEVITALISATION

STAGE 4: DENTAL ABSCESS

As a last resort, the dentist will have to extract the whole tooth and replace it with a dental restoration.

→ Practical advice 

Even if you had your cavity treated by a dentist, it could become infected again several years later. Bacteria can accumulate beneath a filling. The tooth decay continues then to spread, causing pain. If an already-treated tooth is aching, do not hesitate and visit your dentist immediately. 

If your tooth is devitalised, you will not feel the pain. However the infection could be serious. Your dentist will detect the infection during your annual check-up.

Ref: J&J internal data

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