Hesperian Health Guides

Chapter 7 Part 1: Problems You Will See Most Often

HealthWiki > Where There Is No Dentist > Chapter 7 Part 1: Problems You Will See Most Often

Cavities and Lost or Broken Fillings

A cavity can occur in any tooth. A cavity can also start around an old filling, especially if it is dirty. The deeper a cavity gets inside the tooth where the nerve lives, the more the tooth hurts.

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  • Pain when drinking water or eating something sweet.
  • A hole (or black spot) on the tooth, or between two teeth.
  • Pain if food gets caught inside the hole.
  • No pain when you tap the tooth.
Treatment (when there is no abscess):

Try to remove any loose piece of filling with a probe. Then, following the steps in Chapter 10, put in a temporary or permanent filling.

For a temporary filling:

  1. Fill the hole with cement. If you have no cement, put some cotton into the hole to keep food out.
  2. Look for cavities or broken fillings in the other teeth. Fill each one with cement before it gets worse and starts to hurt.
  3. Arrange for someone to replace the temporary filling with a permanent one.

For a permanent filling:
You will need a person who has experience doing Atraumatic Restorative Treatment or using a
dental drill.

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A groove on the neck of a tooth is a more difficult cavity to fill. For the temporary cement to hold properly, you need to shape the groove with a drill. To help temporarily, you can put a little fluoride toothpaste on the groove. Do this once each week until the inside part of the groove is stronger and the tooth hurts less. Or, you can paint the inside of the groove with oil of cloves (eugenol) to reduce the pain.

To avoid making the problem worse, (1) do not use a hard toothbrush; (2) do not brush back and forth along the gums; and (3) do not chew tobacco or betel nut and do not hold them against the teeth.

This page was updated:19 Feb 2018