Tooth Decay

Tooth decay or cavities are known as dental caries. Caries is a bacterial infection of tooth structure that causes demineralization of the calcium softening the tooth structure.

This infection takes place when the normal healthy bacteria in the mouth are replaced by acid-producing bacteria. This shift in bacteria is primarily caused by two things:

  • Prolonged acidic (low pH) oral environment: contributing factors include a lack of saliva, and/or a sugary/acidic diet that favors acid-producing bacteria.
  • Transmission: this infection is contagious! You can be infected by someone through exchange of saliva.

Drilling and filling has been the traditional method of treating cavities, but it doesn't treat the bacterial infection, just the symptoms. Brushing and flossing has been the traditional method of prevention, but it does not change the pH (acidity) of the oral environment or treat the infection once it exists.

Many patients are not aware that early decay is reversible. Calcium is constantly moving in and out of the tooth and dentists now have available various therapies to help heal these early cavities. It is helpful to think of treating the decay non surgically instead of traditional surgery,that is fillings. Imporant tools in identifying these types of cavities include:

  • Magnification- Strong dental loupes or micrscopes allow the dentist to visually identify early cavities using a scoring system nknown as ICDAS (International Caries Detection and Assesment System).
  • Xrays- These help identify early areas of decay between the teeth. Even these cavities are reversible if caught at the right time.
  • Laser Detection- The Diagnodent decay detection laser has helped revolutionize the identification and management of decay. Dentist can now detect decay activity long before the old "explorer sticks in the tooth technique" when it is potentially reversible.
  • Risk Assesment- CAMBRA stands for Caries Management by Risk Assesment. This protocol uses a questionnaire to gauge each individual patient's risk profile for future decay. It helps identify which strategies will work best for each patient.
  • CariScreen - This chairsde test tells the dentist just how prevelant the acid producing bacteria are in the patient's plaque. A quick swab and fiteen seconds later and the dentist has an accurate measure of just how infected the patient is.

We utilize all these tools and are always exploring new ways to help manage decay.

To find out how we implement this information to help you click to our page Filling Free Decay Treatment.

Foor extensive information on decay go to the CariFree website.

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