How to Fix a Cavity: Treatment Solutions & Costs

Category: Adult Dentistry, Dr. Advocate's Insights

Dr Advocate Avatar IconBy: Dr. Advocate
Updated: August 25, 2022

Tooth Decay Cartoon | How to Fix a Cavity: Treatment Solutions & Costs | My Dental Advocate

Did you know that 9 out of 10 adults have had a cavity, and one in six adults have untreated cavities? Cavities are a prevalent dental problem that can occur in any teeth – regardless of how well you take care of them. If you have a cavity, don’t worry – plenty of treatment solutions are available, and the cost will vary depending on your dentist’s approach.

In this blog post, we’ll discuss how to reverse a cavity, the different types of treatments available for fixing cavities, as well as the associated costs.

Recommended Reading: Cavities | The Ultimate Guide

What is a cavity?

A cavity, also known as tooth decay, is a hole in your teeth. Cavities are caused by the buildup of plaque, a sticky film of bacteria that constantly forms on your teeth. Plaque produces acid that attacks the tooth enamel, causing it to break down and create a cavity. If left untreated, cavities can become more extensive and lead to pain and infection. In severe cases, they can even cause teeth to fall out.

Cavities are one of the most common dental problems, but they’re also preventable. With proper oral hygiene and regular dental visits, you can help keep cavities at bay.


Cavity signs & symptoms

The most common symptom of a cavity is tooth pain which occurs when tooth decay breaks through the hard outer layer of the tooth (enamel) and reaches the softer second layer (dentin). The inner layer (pulp) houses blood vessels and nerves that extend into the dentin.


Recommended Reading: What Does a Cavity Look Like? (20 Pictures)


Man eating ice cream with sensitive teeth | What is a Cavity? Treatment Solutions & Costs | My Dental Advocate

Cavities are one of the most common dental problems, but they’re also preventable. With proper oral hygiene and regular dental visits, you can help keep cavities at bay.

Other signs & symptoms of cavities include:
  • Pain when you bite down
  • Pain when you eat hot, cold, or sweet foods
  • Dark spots on your tooth
  • Sensitive teeth
  • Spontaneous pain
  • Pain that wakes you up during the night

 

Cavity treatment solutions at the dentist

Many people think the only way to fix a cavity is to go to the dentist and have a filling. However, you can repair cavities at home. One way to fix a cavity is by routinely using toothpaste that has fluoride in it.

Fluoride helps prevent cavities from forming in the first place, so it can be helpful to use a toothpaste that contains fluoride even after you have a cavity.

If you have a cavity causing you pain, you may need to have a dentist fill it. However, if the cavity is not causing you pain, you may be able to reverse the cavity at home with one of the methods described below.


How to fix a cavity in the front tooth?

If you have a cavity in your front tooth, you may be concerned about the appearance of your smile. However, there are several treatment options available that can help to restore the function and appearance of your tooth.


Filling – having a filling placed in the tooth is inexpensive, requires minimal removal of tooth structure, and can last for many years. Also, this treatment will help prevent further decay and restore the tooth’s strength.


Veneer – a dental veneer can also be placed on the tooth. Veneers are thin pieces of porcelain bonded to the front of the teeth that can cover up stains, chips, and other imperfections on the teeth. Veneers are not typically covered by insurance, so they may be more expensive than other treatment options.


Crown – a dental crown is an excellent option if the cavity extends across more than half of the tooth because it wraps around the weakened tooth structure and holds the tooth together to prevent further damage. However, matching a crown with your other front tooth can be challenging, so crowning both front teeth may be recommended.

Cavity to filling treatment | How to Fix a Cavity: Treatment Solutions & Costs | My Dental Advocate

 

How to fix a cavity between teeth?

Most cavities form between teeth because it’s the most challenging area to clean. Brushing alone will not remove the harmful bacteria lodged between teeth. Flossing or using a Waterpik are the best ways to clean between teeth because they physically remove the cavity-causing bacteria.

Flossing is the preferred method; however, using a Waterpik is recommended if you have significant gaps between your teeth. Chances are, if you have a cavity between your teeth, you’ll need to see a dentist to fill it, as it is more challenging to remineralize (heal) than a cavity on a smooth tooth surface.


Cavity treatment solutions at home

Fluoride treatments cartoon | How to Fix a Cavity: Treatment Solutions & Costs | My Dental Advocate

Many options are available if you’re looking for ways to fix a cavity without dental treatment. However, some options will require an initial evaluation with the dentist.

Best home cavity treatment solutions:
  • Nightly fluoride trays (dentist-required)
  • Prescription fluoride toothpaste (dentist-required)
  • Topical fluoride varnish (dentist-required)
  • Over-the-counter fluoride toothpaste (MI Paste)
  • Oral health improvement

 

Recommended Reading: Can You Reverse a Cavity? (5 Simple Steps)

 

What is MI Paste?

MI Paste and MI Paste Plus are the only over-the-counter professional products that contain the active ingredient RECALDENT, a unique milk-derived protein that releases calcium, phosphate, and fluoride (only MI Paste Plus).

These minerals repair weekend enamel that has been damaged by harmful bacteria acid. Both products are available in five delicious flavors. MI Paste is fluoride-free, and MI Paste Plus contains a patented form of fluoride (900 ppm).


Recommended Reading: What is MI Paste? (How it Heals Cavities)


What is prescription fluoride toothpaste?

Prescription fluoride toothpaste can only be prescribed by your dentist and contains a higher fluoride concentration (5000 ppm). This maximum strength toothpaste reduces cavity risk by 42%, whereas over-the-counter fluoride toothpaste reduces cavity risk by 23%.


Prescription fluoride toothpaste benefits:
  • Reduces risk for tooth decay
  • Decrease tooth sensitivity
  • Prevent cavities from growing
  • Remineralize (heals) small cavities
  • Minimally abrasive toothpaste

Who would benefit from prescription fluoride toothpaste:
  • Patients with braces
  • Patients with active tooth decay
  • Patients with dental hypersensitivity
  • Patients with high cavity risk (prone to tooth decay)
  • Patients with dry mouth
  • Patients with exposed root surfaces
  • Patients with many fillings and crowns

Can you reverse a cavity?

If the cavity is in the enamel layer ONLY, it can likely be reversed and healed (also referred to as remineralized) because the tooth can replace minerals that have been lost. However, if the cavity has reached the dentin layer (second layer), it’s much harder to treat and heal naturally. In this case, you’ll likely need to see a dentist and have the cavity filled.


How long does it take to reverse a cavity?

The time it takes to reverse a cavity naturally depends on its depth. For example, if the cavity is in the superficial enamel layer only, it can often be reversed quickly (within a few weeks). However, if the cavity has reached the junction with the dentin layer, it will take longer to reverse (several months to a year). Other factors to consider include diet, oral health, frequency of sugar consumption, frequency of dental visits, and genetics.


Recommended Reading: 12 Cavity Risk Factors (Best Treatment)


Can cavities go away with brushing?

Cavities cannot go away with brushing alone, but you can prevent them from worsening. Brushing removes the plaque and bacteria that cause cavities and helps remove the food particles that contribute to them. However, once a cavity has formed and entered the second tooth layer (dentin), it can only be removed by a dentist.


Can salt remove a cavity?

No, salt cannot remove a cavity. However, it can help prevent cavities by killing the bacteria that cause them. Salt also helps to remove the food particles that contribute to cavities. To use salt as a cavity prevention method, add a teaspoon of salt to a cup of warm water and swish it around your mouth for two minutes. Then, spit it out and rinse with water.


How long can a cavity go untreated?

Cavities can go untreated for a long time but eventually become painful. The longer a cavity is left untreated, the more damage it will do to the tooth. If the cavity damages most of the tooth structure, the tooth may need to be extracted (pulled out). Some cavities progress faster than others for reasons including genetics, diet, oral health, and frequency of sugar consumption.


What does a cavity look like?

Cavity on x-ray | How to Fix a Cavity: Treatment Solutions & Costs | My Dental Advocate

Cavities are often small, dark spots on teeth. In the early stages, a cavity may not be visible to the naked eye and may only be detected through dental x-rays. However, cavities will become more prominent and apparent as cavities progress. Cavities routinely form on the chewing surface of the teeth in the grooves and pits. This area is difficult to clean and will begin to harbor bacteria. Stains in the teeth will also be an early sign of tooth decay.

Recommended Reading: What Does a Cavity Look Like? (20 Pictures)

 

What does a cavity look like on an x-ray?

On an x-ray, a cavity will look like a dark shadow. This occurs because the cavity eliminates much of the healthy tooth structure allowing the x-ray beam to pass through and emit a dark shadow. The larger the cavity, the easier it is to spot it on the x-ray. Digital x-rays allow the clinician to utilize tools to evaluate the x-ray, including magnification, sharpness control, and color changes.

Related: Learn more about Dental X-rays

 

Cavity treatment costs

The cost of filling a cavity depends on the size and location, as well as the type of filling material used. For example, the average price of a silver amalgam filling is $50-$150, whereas the average cost of a composite resin filling is $90-$250. Gold or porcelain fillings are usually more expensive, costing $500-$4,000 per tooth.

A veneer or crown will be indicated if the cavity extends across more than half of the tooth or causes an irreversible stain, a veneer or crown will be indicated. The average cost of veneers is $700-$2000, whereas the average price of crowns is $500-$3000.

The cost of the veneers ranges in price due to porcelain/ceramic material differences, practice location in the country, and dentist expertise. Cosmetic dentists specialize in esthetic treatments such as veneers and crowns, so they often charge more for their services.

Crowns range in price due to crown material choice, practice location in the country, and insurance coverage. Porcelain-fused-to-metal (PFM) crowns are often the cheapest material, whereas zirconia or porcelain/ceramic crowns are the most expensive. The cost difference is also due to differences in material strength, lab cost, and same-day crown treatments.


How to prevent cavities

Preventing tooth decay can save you time in the dentist’s chair, hard-earned money, and unnecessary pain. Here are some tips from a dentist on how to avoid cavities:


Step 1: Brush your teeth at least twice a day

Brushing your teeth removes food particles that adhere to your teeth and form dental plaque. Plaque is primarily oral bacteria that assemble and if left long enough, create a hard substance known as calculus. If calculus isn’t removed, it can cause cavities. So, make sure to brush your teeth at least twice a day!


Step 2: Use a fluoride toothpaste

Fluoride is a mineral that helps strengthen tooth enamel and prevents cavities. It’s important to use fluoride toothpaste when brushing your teeth to help remineralize your teeth and prevent cavities from forming. Bacteria produce acid, damaging and weakening the enamel surface (demineralization). Fluoride can replace the lost tooth structure and prevent a cavity from progressing.


Step 3: Floss daily

Regular flossing removes plaque and bacteria between your teeth and under your gum line, where your toothbrush can’t reach. This helps prevent cavities from forming in these hard-to-reach areas.


Step 4: Visit your dentist regularly

Regular dental visits allow your dentist to spot areas of concern, including early stages of tooth decay, a moderate plaque build-up, or inflamed gum tissue—professional cleanings and checkups.


Step 5: Eat a balanced diet and limit sugary snacks and drinks.

A diet high in sugary and acidic foods can damage your teeth and cavities. Try to limit sugary snacks and drinks and acidic fruits and vegetables. Eating a balanced diet with plenty of water will help keep your teeth healthy!


Recommended Reading: 10 Simple Steps to Prevent Cavities (Dentist’s Perspective)


Final thoughts

Cavities can be a real pain; however, many treatment solutions exist to fix this common problem. Also, there are many ways to prevent cavities before they become a pain in your mouth and in your wallet. Preventing cavities is the best plan of action possible.


The more you know, the more healthy habits you can develop, saving you and your family from avoidable and potentially expensive dental procedures. Talk to your dental professional for more suggestions on improving oral health and check back for more blog posts and relevant information. Please share this site and let us know what else you’d like to know!




Dr Advocate Avatar IconAbout the Author

Dr. Advocate is an actual board-certified dentist with clinical practice experience and a mission to provide accurate dental patient education. He believes everyone should access easy-to-read dental resources presented in layman’s terms with relevant, up-to-date dental research and insight to improve their oral health.