Dr. Beidoun SAYS!
Caries, also know as tooth decay or a cavity, remains one of the most common bacterial diseases throughout the world. The process of a cavity starts when the bacteria in our mouth ferment the sugars present in food debris left over on our teeth after meals. This fermentation causes acid which breaks down the tooth layers (enamel, dentin) and if left untreated, can reach the pulp or tooth nerve. Initially, an area of demineralization looks chalky white and is considered the early stages of a cavity. At this stage,only the enamel is affected and it is possible for this area to remineralize, if exposed to fluoride (through rinses, toothpastes, in-office application) and proper oral hygiene measures installed to keep it plaque-free. However, if the source of bacteria (ie. plaque) is not removed and remineralization from saliva, fluoride, calcium is not sufficient, the caries will progress into dentin, the deeper tooth layer, turning it brown and soft. Symptoms, such as sensitivity to sweets and/or cold will start to appear and the only treatment at this point is the removal of the decayed tooth area by drilling and replacing it with a proper filling material (white or silver). If the cavity is left untreated, the bacteria will reach the nerve, causing a severe toothache, which necessitates, removal of the infected nerve via a root canal treatment or more radically, the extraction of the tooth altogether if it is deemed not salvageable.
What you can do to prevent caries?
1. Avoid sweet snacking (especially sweet and sticky foods that stay on the teeth) in between meals. If you are going to eat sweets, have it with meals and brush afterwards.
2. Chew sugarless gum with xylitol after meals to stimulate saliva flow which helps flush away food debris and counteracts the acid effect by raising the pH in mouth.
3. Eat calcium-containing foods (cheddar cheese, milk, green vegetables) after meals to help with remineralization.
4. Needless to say, brushing and flossing at least twice a day (after breakfast and at bedtime).
5. Fluoride rinses at home daily or weekly (ONLY if you are a high caries risk). Otherwise, topical fluoride applications in the office at the time of the hygiene appointment.
6. Pit and fissure sealants are thin plastic-like coatings placed on the chewing surface of molars to prevent food debris from being trapped there (Refer to our blog about sealants).
7. FINALLY, get your teeth checked on a regular basis by a dentist and don't ignore teeth symptoms. Commonly, this is a sign that something is wrong and if caught and treated early, may prevent the resulting damaging consequences.