Why Dentists Drill Teeth to Repair Tooth Decay

Have you ever wondered why dentists drill teeth? The sound of a dental drill is one of the most terrifying noises to mankind. It may be a contributing factor to 13% of the population having a fear of dentists, with even more suffering from general anxiety.

For those of us who have had cavities in the past, you know that repairing the tooth decay requires drilling the teeth. However, people often wonder if the amount of drilling work being done is proportional to the actual size of the cavity. We’re here to help you understand why dentists drill wide and deep before filling the cavities.

Understanding Tooth Decay

In order to understand why dentists drill teeth, we first need to understand tooth decay. Cavities are basically tiny holes in your teeth that are formed from too much tooth decay. This is often caused by too much sugar, acidity, or improper oral hygiene. 

It’s quite common for sugary food substances to build up over time on a person’s teeth. When combined with our saliva and mouth bacteria, acids are released which can gradually dissolve and erode tooth enamel. When this enamel is diminished faster than it can be replaced, these cavities will form. 

However, it’s important to note that tooth decay can happen with all sorts of food. This is especially true when a person doesn’t floss properly, creating a buildup of food material between the teeth over long periods of time. Gum disease is another cause of tooth decay, which is sometimes outside of a person’s control. 

These cavities can often cause pain and sensitivity. Ultimately, this is the reason many people finally go to the dentist to fix their teeth.

Why dentists drill teeth

In many cases, tooth decay is irreversible. This means you’ll need the dentist to drill the tooth and remove the decay.

When a person visits the dentist to fill a tooth cavity, the dentist will first numb the region to minimize the pain. The tooth drilling process is painful without the numbing because teeth are alive with nerves on the inside.

Once the area is sufficiently numbed, the dentist can’t just fill the cavity. Much like sweeping dirt under the rug, the bacteria causing the decay will continue to eat away at the tooth from beneath the filling. So, the dentist must drill the tooth to remove this harmful bacteria before they can start filling the tooth.

As dentists repair tooth decay by drilling teeth, they are replacing the damaged parts of the tooth. The dental procedure will also help prevent the decay-causing bacteria from damaging any other areas of the tooth. This is why dentists drill teeth – so they can eliminate all traces of bacteria. This includes any regions where the decay may have spread beyond the initial hole in the tooth surface.

Teeth Drilling Alternatives

In some cases, a drill is the only option (especially for larger procedures like root canals). However, for smaller cavities, the dentist can sometimes use a water laser to chisel away at the decay. A water laser is simply a high pressure hose that blasts away shallow tooth decay, instead of drilling teeth.

It’s important to note sometimes the dentist will need to remove portions of healthy tooth in order to effectively fill the decayed area. For example, on these smaller cavities, the dentist will need to dig to create a sufficient work space. This can be done with a traditional drill or a water laser.

Drilling is simply part of the process to access healthy areas of the tooth. Whatever method a dentist chooses depends on the extent of the tooth decay. It is simply impossible to conduct a proper and thorough dental filling procedure without some sort of drilling taking place.

Preventing Tooth Decay

Everyone is at risk of developing cavities and tooth decay. That’s why it’s so important to improve your oral health through consistent oral hygiene habits. In most cases, all you need to do is brush your teeth twice a day and floss regularly. Flossing will help remove any food or debris from in between your teeth. In addition to good oral habits, make sure to schedule regular visits with your dentist every six months.

By visiting the dentist regularly, you can prevent and avoid more major dental procedures down the road. Tooth drilling may sound scary or intimidating, but it’s much better than a tooth extraction or severe dental procedures to repair damage.

Visit Haven Dental Center

Dr. Scott Craven is a skilled and professional dentist in Pleasant View, Utah with over 25 years of dental experience. He works with patients to ensure they get the best care and treatment, no matter what the state of their oral hygiene is.

Reach out today to schedule your next appointment with us!


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2685 N 1000 W
Pleasant View, UT

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