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Posts for tag: tooth decay

By Phillip J Wolf DDS
March 11, 2022
Category: Dental Procedures
Tags: tooth decay  
TreatingDecayedBabyTeethProtectsFuturePermanentTeeth

Primary ("baby") teeth may look cute and adorable, but they're a big player in your child's dental health. A primary tooth lost prematurely could eventually lead to a major bite problem.

Primary teeth fulfill a number of functions, most notably enabling young children to eat solid foods, speak and relate to people with a normal smile. But they also serve as placeholders and guides for future permanent teeth developing within the gums.

Problems arise, though, when a child loses a primary tooth early due to disease or trauma, leaving an open space on the jaw. Nearby teeth tend to drift in to fill the space intended for the permanent tooth, leaving little to no room for it when it's time to erupt. This can cause it to erupt out of position, which in turn could force other teeth out of alignment. The end result is a poor bite.

You can, however, avoid this costly outcome by either treating and preserving a decayed baby tooth, or preventing other teeth from drifting into a vacancy left by a lost primary tooth until the permanent tooth comes in.

Depending on the level of decay, treating a diseased primary tooth can include fillings, crowns or modified root canal therapy. For children at high risk for decay, a dentist may also apply sealant to the teeth to inhibit plaque buildup. Although some of these procedures can be extensive, they're often worth the time and effort to prevent a poor bite.

If, on the other hand, we eventually lose the tooth, we can still intervene by installing a space maintainer. This is essentially a loop of wire securely attached to a tooth on one side of a gap, while the other end of the loop butts up against the tooth on the other side. This prevents either tooth from migrating into the space until the permanent tooth is ready to come in.

Primary teeth may not seem all that important, but in the greater picture, they truly are. By taking care of them, you'll be doing your child's soon arriving permanent teeth a favor.

If you would like more information on pediatric dental care, 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 “Importance of Baby Teeth.”

By Phillip J Wolf DDS
March 01, 2022
Category: Oral Health
Tags: tooth decay  
RecurringSinusInfectionsCouldBeaSignofToothDecay

It seems like every year you make at least one trip to the doctor for a sinus infection. You might blame it on allergies or a "bug" floating around, but it could be caused by something else: tooth decay.

We're referring to an advanced form of tooth decay, which has worked its way deep into the pulp and root canals of a tooth. And, it could have an impact on your sinuses if the tooth in question is a premolar or molar in the back of the upper jaw.

These particular teeth are located just under the maxillary sinus, a large, open space behind your cheek bones. In some people, these teeth's roots can extend quite close to the sinus floor, or may even extend through it.

It's thus possible for an infection in such a tooth to spread from the tip of the roots into the maxillary sinus. Unbeknownst to you, the infection could fester within the tooth for years, occasionally touching off a sinus infection.

Treating with antibiotics may relieve the sinus infection, but it won't reach the bacteria churning away inside the tooth, the ultimate cause for the infection. Until you address the decay within the tooth, you could keep getting the occasional sinus infection.

Fortunately, we can usually treat this interior tooth decay with a tried and true method called root canal therapy. Known simply as a "root canal," this procedure involves drilling a hole into the tooth to access the infected tissue in the pulp and root canals. After removing the diseased tissue and disinfecting the empty spaces, we fill the pulp and root canals and then seal and crown the tooth to prevent future infection.

Because sinus infections could be a sign of a decayed tooth, it's not a bad idea to see a dentist or endodontist (root canal specialist) if you're having them frequently. Treating it can restore the tooth to health—and maybe put a stop to those recurring sinus infections.

If you would like more information on the connection between tooth decay and sinus problems, 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 Phillip J Wolf DDS
December 01, 2021
Category: Dental Procedures
Tags: tooth decay  
WereImprovingOurEffectivenessinTreatingToothDecay

For several decades, dentists have been saving teeth from tooth decay following a few basic guidelines: 1) Identify decay as soon as possible; 2) Thoroughly remove decayed tooth structure; and 3) Fill any cavities. With millions of diseased teeth rescued, observing these simple steps have proven a rousing success.

But as with most things, even this successful protocol isn't perfect. For one, some healthy tissue gets removed along with the diseased portions. The average percentage of "collateral damage" has dropped over the years, but it still happens—and a reduction in healthy tissue can make a tooth less structurally sound.

Another drawback, at least from the patient's perspective, is the dental drill used for removing decay and preparing cavities for filling. Many people find drilling unpleasant, whether from its vibrations in the mouth or its high-pitched whine. The drill's burr head design also contributes to greater healthy tissue loss.

But those weaknesses have lessened over the last few years, thanks to innovations on a number of fronts.

Better risk management. Tooth decay doesn't occur out of thin air—it arises out of risk factors unique to an individual patient like personal hygiene, bacterial load, saliva production or even genetics. Taking the time to identify a patient's "tooth decay risk score" can lead to customized treatments and practices that can minimize the occurrence of decay.

Earlier detection. Like other aspects of dental health, the sooner we detect decay, the less damage it causes and the more successful our treatment. X-rays remain the workhorse for detecting decay, but now with improvements like digital film and better equipment. We're also using newer technologies like laser fluorescence and infrared technology that can "see" decay that might otherwise go undetected.

Less invasive treatment. The dental drill is now being used less with the advent of air abrasion technology. Air abrasion utilizes a concentrated spray of particles to remove diseased tooth structure more precisely than drilling. That means less healthy tissue loss—and a more pleasant (and quieter!) experience for the patient.

In effect, "less is more" could describe these improvements to traditional decay treatment. They and other methods promise healthier teeth and happier patients.

If you would like more information on current treatments for tooth decay, 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: When Less Care is More.”

CraftaCustomCarePlanbyIdentifyingYourIndividualRiskforToothDecay

Although we've known for some time how tooth decay forms, it's still prevalent across the population—even more so than cancer or heart disease. Along with gum disease, it's a leading cause of tooth loss.

Fortunately, our knowledge about tooth decay has grown considerably, to the point that we now recognize a number of risk factors that make it more likely a person will develop this disease. By first identifying them in individual patients, we can take steps to address them specifically to reduce the chances of this destructive disease.

Genetics. Researchers have identified around 40 to 50 genes that can influence cavity development. The best way to assess your genetic risk is through family history—if numerous close family members contend with tooth decay, your risk may be high. If so, it's important to be extra vigilant with addressing other areas over which you have more control.

Saliva. Cavities are directly caused by oral acid, a byproduct of bacteria, that can erode tooth enamel over prolonged contact. This is minimized, though, through a normal saliva flow that neutralizes acid and helps remineralize enamel. But poor saliva production can slow acid neutralization. You can improve your saliva flow by drinking more water, changing medications or using saliva-boosting products.

Oral hygiene. You can reduce bacteria (and thus acid) by removing their "room and board"—dental plaque. This accumulating film of food particles harbors the bacteria that feed on it. Daily brushing and flossing, accompanied by regular dental cleanings, effectively removes dental plaque, which in turn lowers the levels of oral bacteria and acid.

Dental-friendly diet. Even if you diligently address the previous risk factors, your diet may fight against your efforts. Diets high in processed and refined foods, especially sugar, provide abundant food sources for bacteria. On the other hand, a diet primarily of whole foods rich in vitamins (especially D) and minerals like calcium and phosphorous strengthen teeth against decay.

Preventing tooth decay isn't a "one-size-fits-all" approach. By identifying your own particular risk, we can craft a care strategy that can be your best defense against this destructive dental disease.

If you would like more information on tooth decay, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation.

By Phillip J Wolf DDS
May 23, 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.”