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The treatment that’s recommended for tooth decay can depend on its stage. Let’s take a look at the different treatment options based on the progression of tooth decay.
This earliest stage of tooth decay can actually be reversed before more permanent damage occurs. This can be achieved by treating the teeth with fluoride.
You can receive a fluoride treatment at your dentist’s office. It’s often applied to your teeth in the form of a gel or varnish. Fluoride works to strengthen enamel, making it more resistant to the acids produced by plaque bacteria.
Fluoride can also be found in some types of toothpastes and is often present in tap water. About 74 percent of Americans that get their tap water from a community water system receive fluorinated water.
When tooth decay enters this stage, cavities are often present. Fillings are used to treat cavities.
When giving a filling, your dentist will first use a tool to clear away any areas of decay. They’ll then fill the hole with a material such as resin, ceramic, or dental amalgam. This material is typically the same color as your tooth.
Because dentin is softer than the enamel, decay moves at a faster rate when it reaches this stage. If identified early, dentin decay may be treated with a filling. In more advanced cases, placement of a crown may be required.
A crown is a covering that covers the top portion of your tooth above the gums (also called the crown of the tooth). The decayed area is removed before the crown is placed. Some healthy tooth tissue may be removed as well to ensure that the crown fits well to your tooth.
When tooth decay has reached the pulp, you’ll often need a root canal. In a root canal, the damaged pulp is removed. The tooth cavity is then cleaned and filled in. A crown is placed on the affected tooth.
If an abscess has formed in your tooth, your dentist will likely perform a root canal to remove the infection and seal the tooth. In severe cases, the affected tooth may need to be removed completely.
Antibiotics may also be prescribed to help treat an abscess. These are medications that kill bacteria.