Although tooth decay has slowly declined over time, it can still be a problem for individual children, teens and adults. That’s because plaque, a sticky film of bacteria, is constantly trying to form on your teeth. When you eat or drink foods containing sugars or starches (Soda, juices, candy, sticky carbohydrates, etc.), the bacteria in plaque produce acids that attack the tooth. The stickiness of the plaque keeps these acids in contact with your teeth and after many such attacks, the enamel can break down and a cavity forms.
The way to prevent this from happening is by removing the sticky plaque through daily brushing and flossing. The less amount of time plaque is allowed to sit on the teeth, the less likely you are to develop cavities. Brushing alone can’t reach all of the teeth surfaces to remove cavity-causing plaque. This is why you will always hear us stressing the importance of daily flossing!
Aren’t Cavities Just Kid’s Stuff?
No. While we usually think that we have cavities as kids and eventually grow out of it, a large portion of teenagers and adults also suffer from tooth decay. Many times this is caused by inadequate brushing and/or flossing or poor dietary habits (eating lots of cavity-causing foods). If you are concerned about the adequacy of your oral hygiene or foods that may be causing problems with your teeth, we invite you to ask our knowledgeable hygienists and doctors at your next visit about ways you can improve your overall oral health!
What is Tooth Decay?
Tooth decay, or a cavity, occurs when bacteria from plaque destroy the outer layer of tooth structure. This outer layer of tooth structure is called “Enamel”. Once the enamel has been penetrated by this destruction you have tooth decay, or a cavity. The inner layer of tooth structure, called “Dentin”, is not as strong as the enamel and once decay reaches this layer the destruction occurs more rapidly than in enamel.
How do I get rid of tooth decay?
Once decay has started it won’t stop unless the destroyed tooth structure and bacteria are removed from the tooth. This is accomplished by getting a “Filling”. At times the destruction of tooth structure is too big for a filling to fix, if this is the case Dr. Baldwin or Dr. Burnham will recommend the needed treatment. Getting a filling involves removing the destroyed tooth structure and replacing it with a “filling”. Historically, fillings were completed with a material called amalgam, also known as silver or metal fillings. While there are many benefits to amalgam fillings, over time the advances in dental materials have allowed us to favor a more esthetic option for filling materials.
At Baldwin Family Dental we use Composite or Resin materials to restore teeth that have tooth decay and only require a filling. These materials are “white” or “tooth-colored” and blend in very well with the natural teeth so that others won’t even realize you’ve had a filling. These composite or resin fillings are bonded to the existing tooth structure and make for a high-quality and high-strength restoration.
How Do I Prevent Tooth Decay?
- Brush twice a day for 2 minutes each time, with a fluoride containing toothpaste.
- Floss daily!
- Eat nutritious and balanced meals and limit snacking in between meal times. Limit sweets, sodas, and sticky foods.
- If your local city water does not have fluoride we recommend your children take “supplemental fluoride”. Kids benefit from taking a supplemental/systemic fluoride tablet as this allows the fluoride to be incorporated into the enamel layer of their teeth as they develop. This benefit is not the same for adults because their teeth have already been developed.
- While teens and adults can’t benefit from systemic fluoride they can benefit from a fluoride varnish application during their visit to our office. We recommend this for kids as well.
- Sealants help by making the chewing surface on our back teeth easier to clean. This resin coating eliminates the deep crevices on the biting surfaces of those teeth where cavities usually start and make it easier to keep them clean.
- Get your teeth cleaned/polished and examined two times a year. This way we can catch things before they become large.