What is Tooth Decay

Tooth decay, also referred to as a cavity, is basically a hole in the surface of the tooth. A tooth is made up of three layers, the outer, hard enamel, the softer dentin layer and the inner pulp canal where nerves and blood nourish the tooth. Plaque bacteria combine with sugars in foods and beverages in the diet and forms acids. These acids eat away at the tooth enamel. Once the decay breaks through the enamel, it spreads rapidly into the softer dentin layer of the tooth. If left untreated, the decay can spread deeper into the pulp canal and cause an infection called an abscess.

If decay is detected by your dentist in its early stages it can be easily treated with a restoration or filling. Most restorative material is either amalgam (silver) filling or composite (tooth colored) filling.

When decay has infected the pulp of the tooth it may be treated with a procedure called a root canal. This treatment is the only way to save the tooth from being extracted. If a root canal cannot be done the only alternative is to remove the infected tooth.

Simple Preventive Measures

The best defense against tooth decay is proper daily brushing and flossing to remove plaque build-up, limited sugar consumption and the use of fluoridated toothpastes and mouth rinses.

Fluoride in public water systems helps to strengthen developing tooth enamel. Fluoride in toothpastes and mouth rinses help to strengthen the surface of existing teeth and also protect around restorations, crowns and areas of gum recession.

Our office provides topical fluoride treatments and fluoride varnishes that are highly concentrated to provide optimal uptake of fluoride into the teeth to help re-mineralize the enamel and help to prevent tooth decay. We also offer Pit and Fissure Sealants that seal off the deep grooves in the biting surfaces of molars and premolars where decay often occurs.

Another way to help fight tooth decay between brushing and flossing is chewing sugarless gum, especially those with xylitol. Chewing sugarless gum stimulates your body's production of saliva and can actually neutralize acid formation and rinse away food particles that contribute to the formation of acids. Xylitol has been shown to inhibit the growth of plaque bacteria.