Hearing your dentist say that you have tooth decay is often a source of dread, since the standard tooth decay and cavity treatment usually involves drilling the decaying portion of the tooth and inserting a filling. Now, however, it turns out the “drill and fill” method may not always be necessary to treat tooth decay.
Researchers from the University of Sydney conducted a 7-year study of 1000 patients at 22 dental clinics and concluded that preventive care at the first sign of tooth decay can reduce the need for cavity fillings by 30 to 50%. They reported their findings in December in the journal Community Dentistry and Oral Epidemiology.
Tooth Decay Progression
The researchers recommended “a major shift in the way tooth decay is managed by dentists”. They reported that decay does not always progress, and when it does, it typically occurs more slowly than most people believe. The average time for decay of the tooth’s outer enamel to spread to the tooth’s inner layer is 4 to 8 years.
By intervening with preventive care at the first sign of tooth decay, dentists and patients may be able to keep that initial decay from becoming a full-blown cavity and the drill and fill treatment. The researchers recommend a “no-drill” approach that includes high-concentration fluoride varnish at the site of decay, good home oral hygiene practices, limiting foods and drinks with added sugar, and regular dental checkups.
While the dentist drill is still the necessary treatment in more advanced cases of tooth decay and cavities, a “no-drill” preventive care approach may encourage people to visit the dentist more often—and may even help some of the estimated 30 to 40 million Americans with dental anxiety overcome their fear of going to the dentist.
Prevent Tooth Decay with Good Oral Hygiene Practices
Unfortunately, if tooth decay does lead to a cavity, you will still need to get a filling treatment. To reduce your risk of cavities, follow these recommendations from the US Department of Health and Human Services:
- Brush your teeth twice a day with a toothpaste containing fluoride.
- Floss on a daily basis.
- Don’t use tobacco products.
- Drink alcoholic beverages in moderation, if you drink alcohol at all.
- Limit foods and drinks with added sugars.
- Get regular checkups and cleanings at a dentist’s office.
For more information about dental and oral health and related treatments and medications, visit our Oral Care Dental Care Conditions Page.