Dental Question: I just returned from a dental visit and my dentist told me that I had 8 new cavities. I know I had missed my last few visits, but does this seem normal since I was in there a year and a half ago?
Answer: The process of tooth decay hasn’t changed but the way we look at it has changed. Basically decay results when naturally existing oral bacteria act on carbohydrates, producing an acid that diffuses into tooth structure, dissolving it. The bad things that cause the cavities are acid producing bacteria, sticky carbohydrates like candy, pop and insufficient saliva. The good things that protect the teeth include minerals and proteins in the saliva and of course fluoride.
Even though there has been a significant reduction in cavities for those younger than 18 years old, the decay rate for adults and seniors continue to be a problem. The reason is that many adults are living longer, keeping their teeth and taking medications. The end result is lots of teeth in a high risk population that produces less saliva. Saliva is reduced as a result of the multitude of medications they take. In fact, the result of one study showed that 22 percent of adults with teeth had evidence of root decay. In older mature adults recession takes place around the teeth leaving the roots exposed to the oral environment. The root is made of a material called dentin. This is much softer and less mineralized than enameled crown part of the tooth. Cavities develop on these softer root surfaces very quickly especially when food collects between the teeth and not removed properly. It is therefore extremely important to:
- Clean between your teeth to remove the food and plaque every day. I recommend a simple, but extremely effective aide called a shower floss. This device hooks up to the shower head and produces a strong stream of water to give your teeth a true cleansing. It is similar to a waterpick, but is very simple and doesn’t make a mess on the mirror. They can be purchased from our office or can go to their web-site at www.showerfloss.com.
- See your dentist every 3-6 months to detect decay at the early stage and prevent the cavities from developing.
- Use prescription fluoride daily to strengthen the root surface.
- Maintain a healthy diet consisting of vegetables, fruit and meat. Limit sweets, hard and soft candies and soda pop. These can destroy teeth very quickly.
It is even possible that you could have been re-infected from another person who is a carrier of the organism that causes decay.
Unfortunately, I find your situation all too common in our dental practice.