Tooth decay (dental caries) is one of the world’s most common infectious diseases. Left untreated, it can lead to tooth loss. The best treatment strategy, of course, is to prevent it from occurring in the first place with a long-term approach that begins in early childhood and continues throughout our lifetime.
Here are some basic components for just such a prevention strategy.
Know your risk. We each don’t share the same level of risk for tooth decay, so it’s important to come to terms with any factors that raise your personal risk for the disease — your dental history, inadequate oral hygiene, absence of fluoride use, and lifestyle habits like smoking. Coming to terms with these and other factors — and altering those you can change — can lower your risk.
Reduce acid-producing bacteria in your mouth. Tooth decay usually arises from elevated acidic levels in the mouth caused by certain strains of oral bacteria. You can reduce these bacteria by removing plaque, a thin film of food particles that collect on tooth surfaces, with daily oral hygiene and regular cleanings in our office. In some cases, we may also recommend antibacterial mouthrinses like chlorhexidine to further lower the bacterial population.
Apply protective measures to teeth. Fluoride, a naturally occurring chemical, has been proven effective in strengthening tooth enamel and reducing tooth decay. In addition to fluoride found in many oral hygiene products and public water systems, children can also benefit from a direct application of fluoride to the enamel surface just after the teeth have erupted in the mouth. Many clinical studies have shown 99% cavity free results in over a thousand teeth receiving a fluoride application with sealants.
Control your diet. Bacteria ferment leftover sugars and other carbohydrates in the mouth; this creates acid, which can soften tooth enamel and lead to decay. You can limit this effect by eating more fresh fruits and vegetables and reducing your consumption of refined sugar. You should also limit between meal snacking — constant snacking prevents saliva, the mouth’s natural acid neutralizer, from effectively restoring the mouth’s pH balance.
A prevention strategy for tooth decay will help you avoid unnecessary pain and problems — physically and financially. You’ll also reap the rewards that come from a lifetime of good dental health.
If you would like more information on preventing tooth decay, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Tooth Decay.”
Once upon a time, a well-known Hollywood actress might have hired a private eye to keep unflattering pictures from appearing in the media. Today, that’s no longer the case. Take timeless beauty Demi Moore: In a widely circulated set of photos, her gap-toothed grin showed she was actually missing one of her front teeth!
It turns out the actress released the pictures herself, as she live-tweeted the tooth replacement procedure from her dentist’s office. Moore later explained that the tooth fell out suddenly as she was sitting at her desk.
Celebrities are just like regular folks… except they have more followers on twitter. So we’re happy when they show us that no matter how bad a dental problem may seem, there’s almost always a way to regain a gorgeous-looking smile. We’re not sure exactly how Demi’s dentist chose to restore the damaged tooth — but depending on the individual circumstances, modern dentistry offers a number of ways to close the gap.
A crown (or cap) is a replacement for the entire visible area of the tooth. It may be needed due to accident or trauma, or as a follow-up to root canal therapy. Placing a crown usually requires more than one office visit. First, the tooth is prepared by removing any decay and shaping it, and a precise model is made of the bite. Next, the permanent crown is custom-made in a dental laboratory; this is placed during a subsequent visit. Advances in technology, however, have made it possible in some instances to deliver the permanent crown in a single office visit. If the tooth still has a healthy root structure, a crown is usually a viable option — even when most of the visible part is gone.
What if the entire tooth, including the roots, are missing? Then your replacement options could include bridgework or a dental implant. A fixed bridge is a series of crowns joined together as one unit. The teeth on either side of the gap are prepared just as they would be for crowns, and the bridge (including a replacement for the missing tooth in the middle) is attached. Bridges have been used successfully for many years, but they have a drawback: They require enamel to be removed from the healthy teeth on either side of the gap, which could lead to a greater chance of decay, gum disease, or a root canal in the future.
The optimal solution, however, might be a dental implant. With this remarkable technology, the replacement tooth is solidly anchored into the jaw via a screw-shaped post made of titanium — a metal which actually becomes fused with the living bone tissue. A custom-made, lifelike crown is then securely attached to the metal implant. Dental implants are the most successful tooth-replacement procedure; they help preserve bone quality in the jaw — and with regular care, they can last a lifetime.
So if your smile is making you camera-shy, why not talk to us about your tooth-restoration options? If you would like additional information, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Crowns & Bridgework” and “Dental Implants.”