If you feel you generally look after your teeth, it can be particularly annoying to find you have a cavity, but there are ways you can maintain tooth decay prevention. Here at the Cental Park S. Dental Care every patient is carefully assessed for their risk of dental disease including tooth decay. After a detailed examination, we can supply you with your own treatment plan which will be personalized to take into account your dental health and your general health and your level of risk. Your treatment plan will include preventative dental care procedures we feel may be helpful and we can also give you lots of useful information on how to reduce your risk of tooth decay.
These days the approach towards preventing and treating tooth decay is quite different to the old days where it was common to just drill and fill the tooth. By looking at how and why a patient may be more at risk of tooth decay, we can implement individualized strategies to prevent this from happening. This proactive and preventative approach is becoming more common because it works. By employing the most up-to-date strategies, we hope to keep your natural teeth strong and healthy and as free from cavities as possible.
What Is Tooth Decay And How Does It Develop?
The environment in your mouth is continually changing with many different living organisms interacting with each other and with their surroundings. Your saliva plays an important part in your dental health, continually bathing your teeth and oral tissues and helping to maintain a neutral environment and pH levels. This is vital, as specific bacteria that produce acid are found in dental plaque, that sticky layer that develops over the surface of your teeth during the day.
Whenever you eat something sugary or high in carbohydrates, these bacteria break down the sugars and produce acid, increasing the acidity in the mouth. When the pH levels reach approximately 5.5, minerals in your tooth enamel begin to dissolve and during this process calcium and phosphate are removed during the first step in the process of tooth decay. This process is called acid erosion. The mouth can remain acidic half an hour to an hour after eating and as pH levels return to normal, some of the minerals are redeposited into your tooth enamel, helping to reverse some but not all of the damage caused to your tooth enamel. Repeated acid attacks can weaken and wear down your tooth enamel, eventually exposing the dentin underneath. Unlike tooth enamel, dentin is a lot softer allowing a cavity to develop more quickly. Just a small hole in your tooth enamel could hide quite a large cavity underneath.
Factors That Increase the Risk of Tooth Decay
The more frequently your teeth are bathed in acid, the higher the risk of acid erosion so if you like to snack on sugary or carbohydrate rich foods then your risk of cavities is likely to be higher. The risk isn’t just confined to sugary foods, as eating foods that are highly acidic will have a similar effect. Although tooth enamel is extremely tough it can also become worn away if you brush your teeth too vigorously, increasing your risk of tooth decay. Failing to mend a damaged tooth could also lead to an increased necessity of tooth decay prevention.
How Does a Damaged Tooth Develop a Cavity?
Tooth decay develops when bacteria in the mouth are able to get into the tooth. Normally a healthy and strong tooth is covered with tooth enamel, but if the enamel becomes worn away or damaged, it will let bacteria into the layer of dentin just beneath the enamel. It’s possible for your tooth enamel to become damaged in a number of different ways. If you chip a tooth then bacteria can easily get in, and it’s the same problem if you crack a tooth (Read more: If You Have Chipped Tooth). Even though the tooth may still look solid, every time you bite down the crack will open up slightly, letting in bacteria. This is why it’s always important to get any damage to a tooth mended as quickly as possible for proper tooth decay prevention.
Determining Your Risk of Tooth Decay
We do take a multifaceted approach to tooth decay prevention that will begin by closely examining your teeth for any signs of early cavities. Sometimes cavities will be visible to the naked eye, but other times we may need to use a microscope to see them. Dental x-rays can also be very useful in detecting decay in areas hidden from view, for example in between your teeth. These contact areas are often prone to decay as they can easily trap food and plaque which is why daily flossing is so important for preventing cavities.
Another sign of a cavity can be white spots on your teeth. This is a sign of extremely early decay and it may sometimes be possible to treat it with fluoride. If you have had any cavities within the last three years, this also adds to your risk. People who have dental appliances, for example braces or partial dentures can also be at increased risk as these appliances can easily trap plaque. Even the shape of your teeth can make a difference as having deep pits and fissures in your back teeth makes it harder to keep these teeth clean. Other conditions such as dry mouth and acid reflux disease can increase your risk which is why our dentists will want to know a bit about your medical history.
Strategies for Tooth Decay Prevention
It could be that changing your diet will help, or even changing the times you eat certain foods. For example eating sugary or carbohydrate rich snacks as part of a main meal or avoiding them altogether will reduce the number of times your teeth are bathed in acid each day, reducing your risk of acid erosion.
We can also help improve your oral hygiene routine, if you are brushing too hard or are perhaps not brushing thoroughly enough. Our hygienists can assess your mouth during a regular dental cleaning to determine any areas you might be missing out during brushing. It is surprisingly easy to do this as most of us brush without really thinking about what we’re doing. By showing you a few simple techniques on how to brush more effectively, we can help in your tooth decay prevention. The same applies if you are brushing your teeth too hard.
Additionally, procedures such as fluoride treatments can help. Fluoride hardens tooth enamel so it is able to resist bacteria more easily. There are a number of ways we can apply fluoride during your regular visits, and we can also talk to you about products to use at home, as it might be beneficial to begin using fluoride mouthwash. If we think your health or prescription medications are affecting your risk of tooth decay then we can work with you to find solutions. It could be that your physician can prescribe something different and often conditions like dry mouth can be treated to reduce their impact on dental health.