What If I Don’t Have My Decayed Teeth Fixed?
Dentistry and modern science have not been able to find a cure or prevention for tooth decay, also known as dental caries. Tooth decay is the most common disease in man, found in millions of people.
Q: What is tooth decay?
A: Dental decay (caries) is a bacterial disease. Everyone has bacteria in their mouth that cause caries. These bacteria form a plaque on teeth (sticky bacterial film). Sugar from your diet is turned into acid by these bacteria, which causes decalcification of the tooth, destroys the enamel, and then decay occurs.
Q: My dentist says I have a mouthful of cavities. What if I don’t have my teeth filled?
A: Decayed teeth cannot heal themselves. Destruction will progress. Progression leads to sensitivity to cold or sweet or hot items. This infection will cause the nerves and blood vessels inside the tooth to die. The resulting abscess will spread to the surrounding jaw bone. This infection will need to be treated with a root canal or extraction of the affected tooth.
Q: What type of fillings can be used?
A: There are many choices, these include amalgam, composite resins, all porcelain, metal and gold alloys and lab- or office-made indirect composites. Factors include the condition of the remaining tooth structure as well as overall oral health, cosmetics, durability, longevity, cost and number of dental visits required. Consult with your dentist before treatment begins on what the best options are for you.
The most common option is the use of tooth-colored composite or filled resin material. These materials require minimal tooth to be removed in preparation for the filling and may result in a smaller filling than an amalgam. It is bonded or adhered to the tooth cavity to prevent future leakage or new decay.
Q: Why do I have a problem with decay?
A: This problem relates to nutrition and eating habits. The high frequency of ingesting empty calories and sugar (starchy foods, candies, sodas and sports drinks, etc.) leads to increased occurrences of tooth decay. Starches are broken down by mouth enzymes to sugars, sugars broken down into acids. These acids then break down the tooth.
Sodas and sports drinks are high in sugar and are very acidic. Their pH can be as low as 3 – the same as lemons. If you constantly snack, your teeth can’t fight the constant production of acid and demineralization.
Teeth with existing fillings have to deal with breakdown over their lifetime. These restorations eventually weaken, leak and fracture around the edges. Bacteria accumulate in these crevices which cannot be cleaned, and acid is produced and new decay occurs. The decay needs to be removed and the restorations replaced.
Q: What can I do to prevent tooth decay?
A: Everyone has bacteria which forms plaque. To prevent tooth destruction you must first remove the plaque. This is done by daily brushing and flossing. Brush at least twice a day and floss once a day. The use of fluoride toothpaste aids in limiting the acid effect on tooth enamel.
Regular dental examinations and professional cleanings remove plaque and calculus (mineralized plaque), administer fluoride treatments and allow for caries to be treated early with fillings.
Dental sealants (plastic protective coverings) can be applied to the biting surfaces of back teeth, which seal the grooves where almost 90 percent of decay occurs, preventing it from occurring when in place. Sealants need to be placed before decay occurs (around 6 and 12 years of age when the permanent molars erupt into the mouth). Eat nutritious meals and limit snacking.
Dental caries is not completely preventable. No vaccine is available to prevent this common disease. Without a cure, utilize the modern dental technologies for maximum prevention and limit destruction with early treatment.