Tooth Decay - When To Call a Doctor
You should make an appointment with Dr. Cross if:
- You have not seen Dr. Cross in 6 months to a year.
- You have a toothache. Sometimes a toothache will go away for a while, but the tooth decay will continue. A constant toothache that does not go away could mean that you have severe decay, and you may lose your tooth.
- You have swelling in your gums near a sore tooth. This may mean that there is severe tooth decay or an abscessed tooth. For more information, see the topic Abscessed Tooth.
Watchful waiting is not appropriate for a toothache. If you ignore the decaying tooth after the pain goes away, the tooth may become seriously damaged.
Who To See
Dr. Cross is best able to evaluate your tooth decay and pain.
If you have severe decay, Dr. Cross may refer you to a specialist, such as:
- An endodontist, who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of problems of the pulp.
- An oral or maxillofacial surgeon, who specializes in removing teeth and other mouth surgeries.
How is tooth decay diagnosed?
Dr. Cross diagnoses tooth decay by:
- Asking questions about your past dental and medical problems and care.
- Examining your teeth, using a pointed tool and a small mirror.
- Taking X-rays of your teeth and mouth.
Tooth Decay - Treatment Overview
Treatment for tooth decay varies according to how severe the decay is.
- Brushing and flossing with fluoride toothpaste and/or receiving fluoride treatments may be enough to reverse early decay, before cavities have formed.
- You need a filling or inlay if a cavity has formed. Fillings and inlays are materials that plug the cavity hole and restore a tooth to its original shape after Dr. Cross has removed the decay.
- You may need a crown or onlay if the decay is severe and your tooth is badly damaged. A crown (often called a cap) is a man-made replacement for all or part of a tooth. Crowns are also used to treat teeth that have broken or decayed so much that a filling will not work.
- You may need a root canal treatment if the pulp of your tooth is infected. A root canal removes the diseased pulp of a tooth.
- You may need your tooth taken out (extraction) if the root of the tooth is severely damaged. You may need to replace the tooth with a bridge or an implant.
If you do not treat tooth decay, your cavities can get worse and you may lose a tooth. If you wait to see Dr. Cross, your tooth repair will probably cost more and take longer.