Tooth decay or dental caries is a common problem worldwide. But many are not aware of when to get them filled. Most patients walk in asking to get a painful decayed tooth filled. They say that they did not have any pain, so they had left it untreated. Lack of awareness can lead to loss of a tooth at times.
Every tooth has 3 layers – the enamel, dentin and pulp. The enamel is the strongest outermost layer and the pulp is the innermost layer that has the blood supply and nerve supply of each tooth. The dentin is the layer in-between.
When the decay occurs in enamel, you might not feel anything except probably food getting stuck. They are usually found by your dentist during your routine visit. A filling would suffice in such decayed teeth. Your dentist would remove the decay completely since they contain bacteria and fill it. There are tooth coloured filling materials that are available these days. They are strong, and you can hardly make out that it’s a filling.
When untreated, decay reaches the dentin, and you might have sensitivity especially when you have very cold, very hot or sweet food and drinks. Such teeth can be filled too. Your dentist might give you a tooth coloured filling that can help your sensitivity.
If left untreated, the decay reaches the pulp and this can cause pain. In the initial stages, these may be filled with medicated temporary filling materials too. That is when the pulp is not infected. Your dentist may call you back for a permanent filling if the pain does not persist. A radiograph or an X-ray of the tooth may reveal the extent of decay.
The decay further spreads when left untreated and the pulp gets infected. This can lead to severe pain. Further, the infection can spread into the bone surrounding the roots of the tooth. This is when there is a visible swelling or pain during chewing or while tapping the tooth. Root Canal Treatment (RCT) would be necessary at this stage. Root Canal Treatment (RCT) is nothing but cleaning the root canals that contain the pulp. The pulp is removed completely. Your dentist or endodontist would inject local anaesthetic, so you would not feel any pain. Depending on the extent of infection, it may be done in a single or multiple sittings. A dental prosthesis called crown may be required to ensure that the tooth does not become brittle or discolour following Root Canal Treatment (RCT). This ensures that you have your natural tooth that can be used for chewing without any pain.
Sometimes the decay spreads to the roots of the tooth or the tooth structure is completely destroyed and an extraction or tooth removal is the only option left. The earlier a decay is treated, the better. It is less expensive to get your tooth filled than get Root Canal Treatment (RCT) done in later stages. Follow meticulous oral hygiene to prevent decay. Visit your dentist every 6 months to get any decay diagnosed early. Never wait for pain to get a tooth filled.