What to Do if You Have a Hole in Your Tooth: Next Steps, Treatment, and Costs

What to Do if You Have a Hole in Your Tooth: Next Steps, Treatment, and Costs
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What to Do if You Have a Hole in Your Tooth: Next Steps, Treatment, and CostsClinical Content Reviewed by Dr. Jay Khorsandi, DDS
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Table of Contents

  1. Causes
  2. Symptoms
  3. Treatment
  4. Complications if Untreated
  5. Diagnosis
  6. Prevention
  7. Risk Factors
  8. Frequently Asked Questions
  9. References

Holes sometimes form on your tooth’s surface because of damage from tooth decay. These holes are known as dental cavities, or caries, and they affect 90 percent of American adults.

What you do when you have cavity depends on how serious it is when you discover it. A trip to the dentist is the first step, followed by any home remedies you want to try ahead of your dental visit.

If you do not experience any pain, you can get away with caring for the tooth with regular brushing and flossing. (Although be careful with that tooth.)

If pain is part of the problem, over-the-counter numbing gels can help.

Once you get to the dentist, you are likely in store for a filling, a crown or a root canal to fix that hole.

Causes of a Hole in Your Tooth

Tooth holes form mainly because of sugary food and bacteria that are ever-present in your mouth. Some bacteria are harmless (normal flora), while others are harmful. 

When harmful bacteria interact with the sugary food, they form plaque, an acidic component that erodes your teeth. Plaque accumulates if you don’t clean your teeth after meals. If it is not removed, plaque eventually creates holes in your teeth.

Holes can also result if you clench and grind your teeth (bruxism). Night-time teeth grinding is common but should be treated.

Constant grinding can crack your enamel (the white part of your teeth), and those cracks can grow large enough to form tooth holes.

Symptoms

In the early stages of tooth decay, you might not experience any symptoms. Time will take care of that if you are not taking care of your teeth with regular brushing and flossing.

But the early signs of the cavities include white spots forming in the affected areas of the teeth, indicating that the is breaking down. An early hole appears, displaying a light brown color. 

The tooth decay will progress to its middle and late stages. You could experience one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Severe pain from the affected teeth
  • Sensitivity to foods that are too cold or hot
  • Facial swelling
  • Pus formation around the affected teeth

Treatment

Holes in your teeth can cause permanent damage if left untreated. Treating the cavities depends on their severity, but treatment options include:

  • Home remedies
  • Fillings
  • Crowns
  • Root canals
Home remedies

Some online content suggests that home remedies can treat tooth decay, but this is not true. There is no way to fill up a tooth cavity or treat it at home.

The best you can hope for is relieving the symptoms of the teeth cavities. It would be best to visit the dentist for proper tooth hole treatment.

However, there are drug store products that can help you deal with any pain associated with the cavity. Over-the-counter numbing gels can help. So can warm saltwater rinses.

Dental Fillings
Dentists can use a refilling material such as resin to restore the eroded surface of teeth. The dentist first removes the decayed part of your teeth then refills the holes using a dental filling.
Crowns
If the cavity has progressed to most parts of your teeth, you might need a crown replacement. The dentist first removes damaged and undamaged parts of your teeth and then fits an artificial tooth crown into the regions of the affected teeth.
Root Canal
Root canals treat cavities severe enough to have reached your tooth’s pulp, which is the inner part of your teeth. During the procedure, the dentist first removes the damaged pulp and replaces it with a filling.

Complications if Untreated

If you notice any holes in your teeth, take immediate action and treat them. It will help you avoid some dental complications such as:

  • Bone loss or osteoporosis
  • Tooth fracture
  • Bone infection
  • Tooth abscess
  • Severe toothache 
  • Difficulty chewing, which might cause nutritional problems

Diagnosis

Dentists will ask about the extent of pain you are feeling, then conduct a physical examination to observe the nature of the holes. A tooth exam will require the following instruments:

  • Light source 
  • Dental mirror 
  • Explorer

Dental radiographs (X-rays) are also necessary, especially if the cavities are between the teeth.

Prevention 

One of the best ways to prevent tooth holes is regular brushing. Other ways of preventing tooth holes include:

  • Adjust your diet. Cut back on foods and drinks with many sugars. Also, avoid those foods that tend to stick to your teeth. Drinking water between meals will help rinse your mouth of excess sugars.
  • Floss. Brushing youth teeth without flossing is only half the job done. Flossing helps clean parts of your teeth you cannot access with a toothbrush.
  • Avoid smoking. Smoking tobacco is one of the main reasons behind many oral ailments, including dental caries.

Risk Factors

In most cases, cavities come from poor dental hygiene. However, you might be more susceptible to it than others because of the following factors: 

  • Poor diet. Your chances of getting tooth holes increase if you take in a lot of sugary foods as it provides fuel to form the acidic plaque that causes tooth decay.
  • Low saliva production. Saliva is crucial to washing the plaque from your teeth. It also has properties that counteract the plaques’ acidic effects. Some drugs, such as antidepressants and muscle relaxants, can reduce your saliva production. 
  • Young or old. Infants and toddlers, especially those who drink from bottles, are at a higher risk of developing cavities. If you are an older adult, your chances increase because of receded gums and worn-out teeth.
  • Low fluoride consumption. Fluoride is an essential compound for your teeth. It helps strengthen them, preventing damage by tooth decay.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you fix a hole in your tooth?
Although you can use dental fillings to fix a hole in your tooth, it is not advisable as it could permanently damage your teeth. It would be best to visit a dentist to have tooth holes fixed.
What happens if you leave a hole in your tooth?
If you ignore a tooth hole, it will not go away. It will keep growing and affecting other teeth and can cause abscesses leading to an infection.
Is a hole in your tooth an emergency?
A tooth hole is not an emergency if it is still tiny and in its early stages. But it becomes an emergency if it enlarges and starts causing pain and excessive gum bleeds.

References

What are cavities? (Retrieved February 2022). Medicine Net.

Dental Caries Among Adults and Older Adults. (December 2021). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Cavities. (September 2020). Cleveland Clinic.

The Problem With Teeth Clenching And Grinding. (September 2016). The Health University of Utah.

Tooth Decay in Children. (Retrieved February 2022). University of Rochester Medical Center Rochester.

Tooth Decay. (April 2019). National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. 

Cavities/Tooth Decay. (June 2017). Mayo Clinic.

Dental Fillings. (July 2018). National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. 

Tooth Decay. (September 2021) MedlinePlus.

Risk factors in dental caries. (December 1988). International Dental Journal. 

Dry Mouth Medications and Effects on Saliva. (October 2019). Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC.

Dental cavities. (February 2022). MedlinePlus.

Algorithmic analysis for dental caries detection using an adaptive neural network architecture. (May 2019). Heliyon.

5 Amazingly Simple Things You Can Do To Prevent Cavities. (October 2017). The University of Illinois Chicago.

Correlation between tobacco smoking and dental caries: A systematic review and meta-analysis. (April 2019). Tobacco Induced Diseases.

Disclaimer: This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to serve as dental or other professional health advice and is not intended to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any condition or symptom. You should consult a dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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