How do dentists fix tooth decay?

Table of Contents

Tooth decay is a problematic situation; unless you get it fixed you might lose your teeth. So, how do dentists fix tooth decay then? They use different methods from preventative care in early diagnosis, to tooth extraction in postponed dental appointments. Most of the time, the solution is somewhere in between these two stages, and cavity filling is the most common technique to fix tooth decay.

Before starting with the treatment methods, we will briefly explain how dentists diagnose tooth decay. It is important to understand which stage of tooth decay you are in. We believe you will get a satisfying answer to the “how do dentists fix tooth decay” question after reading this article. In the end, we gave some extra information for you, as you might wonder what are the factors leading to tooth decay.

First, let’s see how dentists diagnose your tooth decay!

The diagnosis of tooth decay

Dentists might ask you some questions like “do you have any pain”, or “how long have you been experiencing pain”. In addition, while examining the tooth in question, they might tap on it to understand which stage of tooth decay it’s in. They also check your gums and tongue, as well as other factors that might give your dentist an idea about how severe the decaying is.

They also check your other teeth to warn you or give you some preventative care before they can go bad. People generally show some simple symptoms of tooth decay before their teeth go all black, painful, and cracked.

Your tooth first starts building plaque, then slowly turning yellow, and then black. These are the first signs of tooth decay. After that, the outer layer, tooth enamel, starts to break down and leaves the dentin exposed. This is the stage where the pain usually begins. If your dentin is exposed for too long, it will eventually get infected, which can turn into an abscess. If you still don’t get any treatment after all these stages, there is a chance you could lose your tooth.

Dentists use different treatments to fix all these problems which we explained in the next section.

Treatments for tooth decay

Dentists use different dental treatments for different phases of tooth decay. For those who want to prevent tooth decay before it occurs, fluoride is recommended. If your teeth already started to build up some cavities, fillings are used. For deeper and more severe cases in which the decay reaches deep in the tooth, root canal treatment is performed. However, if any of these options are not feasible, then your dentist needs to extract the decaying tooth. As you are wondering the question “how do dentists fix tooth decay” here are the answers.

Dental filling

Dental fillings are the first option that comes up in people’s minds when we are talking about tooth decay. It is because it’s both effective and a cheap solution for a decayed tooth.

A dental filling can be used for decayed enamel, exposed dentin, and after root canal treatment. Before applying the filling, dentists first clean the decayed parts. Then the filling material can be applied inside the pulp, dentin, or over the enamel.

There are different filling materials available, such as gold, porcelain, silver amalgam, and composite resin. Your doctor will be able to tell you which one is the most suitable for you.

Root canal treatment

When your tooth nerves and blood vessels are damaged because of decay, what you need is a root canal treatment. Dentists reach the inner parts of the tooth, clean the decayed area, numb the nerves and close it with fillings.

This is an amazing option to save your badly decayed tooth from extraction. Sometimes, antibiotics and painkillers are prescribed by the dentist after a root canal treatment.

Dental Crown

It is a tooth-shaped cover to fit on your teeth. When your teeth are badly damaged and you need a more permanent solution than fillings, a crown is your answer.

Dentists place crowns on the remaining part of your tooth after cleaning the decayed parts. Crowns can be made of different materials, such as gold, porcelain, ceramic, zirconium, and composite fillings.

Tooth extraction

Tooth extraction is the last option dentists choose. When there is no chance to save the tooth with root canal treatment or no place to put the crown, sadly, you need to give up on your tooth.

Dentists numb your tooth before the extraction so you won’t feel anything. Then, by pulling your teeth with gentle movements, they extract it. Dentists clean the extracted are to make sure there is no infection or bacteria left.

Preventative treatments

Some of the treatments can be started before your teeth go bad. You can benefit from fluoride treatment and in-office cleaning to get your teeth cleaned and protected from cavities, and here is how:

Fluoride intake: Getting fluoride is the easiest solution to prevent tooth decay. You can get fluoride from tap water, and fluoride toothpaste. You can also get an in-office treatment with fluoride gel solutions for your dentist to apply. The beneficial effects of fluoride are known worldwide; since the first use of fluoride for dental health, the prevalence rate of cavities decreased by 50%. It is best to get fluoride treatment before you start producing cavities. But it is also effective if you recently showed tooth decay symptoms.

Teeth cleaning: In-office cleaning helps get rid of plaque formation and improves your general oral health. It might be a good idea to get your teeth cleaned before having problems with your teeth if you think you have a tendency to get cavities. Especially people who have gum diseases are more likely to see plaque build up, and eventually decay. For this situation, a deep teeth cleaning might be recommended.

Antibiotics: Dentists might prescribe antibiotics before they fix tooth decay, as well as after treating it. Tooth decay leads to cavities and cavities might lead to infection which is both painful and dangerous for the soft tissue. Your dentist might prescribe antibiotics as preventative care to reduce the pain and prevent the infection from spreading. Your dentist will be able to tell you if you need antibiotic treatment and prescribe you in necessary conditions.

How is tooth decay treated in children?

Tooth decays are treated with the same methods as they are treated in adults. The chances of getting tooth decay in children are higher, though. Children usually complete having their set of primary teeth around age 6, and then the permanent teeth start to pop up. Poor oral hygiene habits at an early age might lead to problems with the permanent teeth of children.

A decayed primary tooth is treated in the same way a permanent tooth is treated. To prevent tooth decay in children, you can try using fluoride toothpaste and promoting healthy eating habits. While using fluoride toothpaste make sure it is not bigger than a pea size.

What are the factors leading to tooth decay?

Besides the lack of dental care and genetics, some other factors might contribute to tooth decay as well. If you think you have these symptoms or situations it might be a good idea to get preventative treatments against cavities.

Age: As we get older, our teeth lose their mineral density, eventually making them more vulnerable to cavities.

Your diet: Acidic beverages, lack of necessary vitamins and minerals, and not drinking enough water makes your teeth more susceptible to tooth decay.

Lack of saliva: Your saliva carries the necessary minerals for your teeth and keeps them moisturized. Lack of saliva leads to a lack of mineralization and dry mouth, both of which increase the chances of tooth decay with enamel erosion.

Mouth dryness: You cannot neutralize acidic foods and bacteria with a dry mouth. Besides, saliva helps you get rid of food debris stuck on your teeth and brings healthy minerals to your teeth. You should drink water and stay hydrated to prevent mouth dryness.

Bad breath: An infected tooth, dry mouth, and massive bacteria production in your mouth can lead to both bad breath and tooth decay. If you have constant bad breath, it might be a good idea to see your dentist.

Smoking: Smoking promotes plaque formation. Reduce your daily smoking or stop smoking for your oral health.

Postponed dental appointments: The best way to keep your teeth healthy and away from decaying is to go to dental checkups at least twice a year.


-Aoun A, Darwiche F, Al Hayek S, Doumit J. The Fluoride Debate: The Pros and Cons of Fluoridation. Prev Nutr Food Sci. 2018;23(3):171-180. doi:10.3746/pnf.2018.23.3.171

-Lussi A, Jäggi T, Schärer S. The influence of different factors on in vitro enamel erosion. Caries Res. 1993;27(5):387-393. doi:10.1159/000261569

-Ahmadi H, Ebrahimi A, Ahmadi F. Antibiotic Therapy in Dentistry. Int J Dent. 2021;2021:6667624. Published 2021 Jan 28. doi:10.1155/2021/6667624

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