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Posts for tag: tooth decay

By Dr. Kathy Hay-Reed
November 30, 2021
Category: Oral Health
Tags: tooth decay  
TheresMoreWeCanDoAboutToothDecayBesidesDrillandFill

Until recently, the standard treatment for tooth decay remained essentially the same for nearly a century: Remove any decayed structure, then prepare and fill the cavity. But that singular protocol has begun to change recently.

Although "drilling and filling" saves teeth, it doesn't fully address the causes of decay. In response, dentists have broadened their approach to the disease—the focus now is on an individual patient's particular set of risk factors for decay and how to reduce those.

At the heart of this new approach is a better understanding of oral bacteria, the true cause of decay. Bacteria produce acid, which can erode tooth enamel and create a gateway into the tooth for decay to advance. We therefore want to lower those risk factors that may lead to bacterial growth and elevated acidity.

One of our major objectives in this newer approach is to reduce plaque, a thin film of food particles used by bacteria for food and habitation. Removing plaque, principally through better oral hygiene, in turn reduces decay-causing bacteria.

Plaque isn't the only mechanism for bacterial growth and acidity. Appliances like dentures or retainers accumulate bacteria if not regularly cleaned. Reduced saliva flow, often due to certain medications or smoking, limits this fluid's ability to buffer acid and acid reflux or acidic beverages like sodas, sports or energy drinks can disrupt the mouth's normal pH and increase the risk for enamel erosion.

Our aim, then, is to develop a long-term strategy based on the patient's individual set of oral disease risk factors. To determine those, we'll need to examine their medical history (including family), current health status and lifestyle habits. From there, we can create a specific plan targeting the identified risk factors for decay.

Some of the elements of such a strategy might include:

  • Daily brushing and flossing, along with regular dental cleanings;
  • Fluoride dental products or treatments to strengthen enamel;
  • Changes in diet and excess snacking, and ceasing from any tobacco use;
  • Cleaning and maintaining appliances, as well as monitoring past dental work.

Improving the mouth environment by limiting the presence of oral bacteria and acid can reduce the occurrence of tooth decay and the extent of treatment that might be needed. It's a more nuanced approach that can improve dental health.

If you would like more information on tooth decay prevention and treatment, 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: How to Assess Your Risk.”

SavingPrimaryTeethFromDecayIsTotallyWorthIt-HeresHow

The few teeth your one or two year old has will eventually fall out in a few years—so, why be concerned about tooth decay this early? Actually, you should: Fighting tooth decay should always be a priority, even at this early age.

Even though primary teeth are short-lived, they make a huge impact on future dental health. These early teeth help guide the eruption of permanent teeth—if lost prematurely to decay, the later teeth may come in misaligned and create a poor bite. Preserving them could help you avoid later orthodontic treatment.

Fortunately, you can help prevent decay in your child's primary teeth. Here's how.

Practice oral hygiene even before teeth. You should begin daily oral hygiene, the principal defense against tooth decay, even before their first teeth emerge. You can reduce harmful bacteria in their mouths by wiping their gums with a clean cloth after nursing. When teeth appear, begin brushing with just a smear of toothpaste.

Limit sugar consumption. Because decay-causing bacteria thrive on sugar, reduce your child's intake in snacks and beverages. For example, don't put them down for bed with a bottle filled with a sugary liquid like juice, sweetened drinks or even formula or breast milk. If you do give them a night-time bottle, fill it only with water.

Avoid bacterial transfer. Your child's immature immune system can't handle the same level of bacteria as in your mouth. So, reduce the chances of bacterial transfer that may cause tooth decay by avoiding kissing on the mouth or sharing eating or drinking utensils with your infant.

Begin dental visits early. Even though they may have few teeth by their first birthday, it's still a good time to begin your child's regular dental visits. Your dentist may be able to diagnose decay early (and treat for maximum effectiveness), as well as provide sealants, topical fluoride and other measures for preventing decay.

Tooth decay at an early age could impact your child's future dental health. Taking steps now to reduce it could help ensure they have healthy teeth and gums later in life.

If you would like more information on dental care for children, 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 “Do Babies Get Tooth Decay?

By Dr. Kathy Hay-Reed
May 23, 2021
Category: Dental Procedures
Tags: tooth decay  
FrequentSinusInfectionsTakeaTriptoYourDentist

If you suffer frequent sinus infections, you might want to see a dentist. No, really—your recurring sinusitis might stem from a decayed tooth.

Tooth decay can start as a cavity, but left untreated can advance within the tooth and infect the pulp and root canals. If it reaches the end of the root, it can cause the root tip and surrounding bone to break down.

A severe toothache is often a good indicator that you have advanced tooth decay, which can usually be stopped with a root canal treatment.  But a decayed tooth doesn't always produce pain or other symptoms—you could have a “silent” infection that's less likely to be detected.

A symptomless, and thus untreated, infection in an upper back tooth could eventually impact the maxillary sinus, a hollow air-filled space located just above your back jaw. This is especially true for people whose tooth roots extend close to or even poke through the sinus floor.

That “silent” infection in your tooth, could therefore become a “loud” one in the sinuses causing chronic post-nasal drip, congestion and, of course, pain. Fortunately, a physician or an ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist might suspect a dental origin for a case of recurring sinusitis, a condition known as maxillary sinusitis of endodontic origin (MSEO).

Antibiotic treatment can clear up sinusitis symptoms short-term. It's unlikely, though, it will do the same for a dental infection, which may continue to trigger subsequent rounds of sinusitis. The best approach is for a dentist, particularly a specialist in interior tooth disease called an endodontist, to investigate and, if a decayed tooth is found, treat the source of the infection.

As mentioned earlier, the solution is usually a root canal treatment. During this procedure, the dentist completely removes all infected tissue within the pulp and root canals, and then fills the empty spaces to prevent future infection. In one study, root canal therapy had a positive effect on alleviating sinusitis in about half of patients who were diagnosed with a decayed tooth.

If your sinusitis keeps coming back, speak with your doctor about the possibility of a dental cause. You may find treating a subsequently diagnosed decayed tooth could alleviate your sinus problem.

If you would like more information on how your dental health could affect the rest of your body, 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 “Sinusitis and Tooth Infections.”

By Dr. Kathy Hay-Reed
February 01, 2021
Category: Dental Procedures
Tags: tooth decay  
3ReasonsWhyTreatingCavitiesIsBecomingMoreEffective

If you've ever had a run-in with cavities, you know the drill (no pun intended): After getting a local anesthetic for pain, the dentist removes any decayed dental tissue, as well as some healthy tissue, and then fills the cavity to restore the tooth. It's an effective treatment protocol we've been using for well over a century.

It does, however, have its drawbacks. For one, although necessary, removing healthy dental tissue can weaken the overall tooth structure. The dental drill used during the procedure is also unpleasant to many people: Although it doesn't cause any pain thanks to the anesthetic, the sounds and pressure sensations associated with it can be unsettling.

But advances in dental tools, technology and techniques are addressing these drawbacks in traditional tooth decay treatment. In other words, treating a tooth with cavities today is taking on a lighter touch. Here are 3 reasons why.

Earlier detection. The key to effective treatment is to find tooth decay in its earliest stages. By doing so, we can minimize the damage and reduce the extent of treatment needed. To do this, we're beginning to use advanced diagnostic tools including digital x-rays, intraoral cameras and laser fluorescence to spot decay, often before it's visible to the naked eye.

Re-mineralizing enamel. One of the advantages of early detection is to catch tooth enamel just as it's undergoing loss of its mineral content (demineralization) due to contact with acid. At this stage, a tooth is on the verge of developing a cavity. But we can use minimally invasive measures like topically applied fluoride and CPP-ACP (a milk-based product) that stimulates enamel re-mineralization to prevent cavity formation.

Less invasive treatment. If we do encounter cavities, we no longer need to turn automatically to the dental drill. Air abrasion, the use of fine substance particles under high pressure, can precisely remove decayed material with less loss of healthy tissue than a dental drill. We're also using newer filling materials like composite resins that don't require enlarging cavities as much to accommodate them.

These and other techniques—including laser technology—are providing superior treatment of tooth decay with less invasiveness. They can also make for a more pleasant experience when next you're in the dentist's chair.

If you would like more information on effectively treating dental disease, 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 “Minimally Invasive Dentistry.”

By Dr. Kathy Hay-Reed
July 05, 2020
Category: Oral Health
Tags: tooth decay  
PreventionandEarlyDetectionofRootCavitiesCouldSaveaTooth

Tooth decay is one of two dental diseases most responsible for tooth loss (gum disease being the other). In the absence of treatment, what starts as a hole or cavity in a tooth's outer layers can steadily advance toward its interior.

Most people associate cavities with the crown, the part of a tooth you can see. But cavities can also occur in a tooth's roots, especially with older adults. Root cavities pose two distinct difficulties: They can lead to more rapid decay spread than crown cavities within a tooth; and they're harder to detect.

Tooth roots are ordinarily covered by the gums, which protects them from bacterial plaque, the main cause for decay. But roots can become exposed due to receding gums, a common problem with seniors who are more susceptible to gum disease.

Unlike the enamel-covered crowns, tooth roots depend on gum coverage for protection against bacteria and the acid they produce. Without this coverage, the only thing standing between tooth decay and the roots is a thin material called cementum.

If decay does enter a tooth's interior, saving it often requires a root canal treatment to remove decayed tissue in the inner pulp and root canals, and then replacing it with a filling. But if we're able to discover a root cavity in its early stages, we may be able to fill it like a crown cavity.

The best strategy, though, is to prevent root cavities from forming. This starts with a dedicated daily regimen of brushing and flossing to remove dental plaque. If you're at high risk for root cavities, we may also recommend antibacterial mouthrinses and other aids.

Regular dental visits are also a must: a minimum of twice-a-year dental cleanings to remove stubborn plaque and calculus (hardened plaque) deposits. For added protection against root cavities, we can also apply fluoride varnish to strengthen teeth. And regular visits are the best way to detect any cavity in its early stages when treatment is less invasive.

A heightened risk of dental problems like root cavities are a part of the aging process. But partnering together, we can lower that risk and increase the longevity of your teeth.

If you would like more information on root cavities, 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 “Root Cavities.”