As the most widespread chronic affliction among children and adults in the United States, cavities affect over 90% of adults by the time they reach age 65 (according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research). While most patients are aware of the basics of cavity prevention, such as brushing and flossing teeth daily and refraining from excessive sugary snacks, fewer patients are aware of how cavities form. Nevertheless, understanding the destructive tooth infection can provide the best chance of preventing small holes from developing in your teeth.
What is Tooth Decay?
Tooth decay, which as internal tooth infection that leads to cavity development, begins by breaking down a tooth’s natural defenses—mainly, the super-resilient layer of enamel that protects teeth from malicious bacteria. When certain oral bacteria (found in sticky dental plaque) consume sugar, they metabolize it into lactic acid, which saps minerals from teeth and weakens highly-mineralized tooth enamel in the process. Inadequate brushing and flossing, as well as repeated exposure to sugar and acid erosion, can wear tooth enamel down faster than teeth can replenish their minerals (remineralization). Over time, enamel can develop holes through which bacteria can reach the tooth’s main structure. Before long, the microbes can cause an infection, or tooth decay, and cavities will form as the infection ravishes healthy tooth structure.
Restoring a Cavity-Stricken Tooth
Tooth decay is a progressive disease, and cavities grow larger the longer a patient neglects to seek treatment. Therefore, effective treatment depends on the stage of decay that the tooth exhibits when you visit the dentist. If weakened enamel is spotted before it is compromised, then fluoride treatments and improved hygiene may reverse the erosion. If decay has invaded the tooth’s inner chamber, or pulp, then root canal therapy may be needed to stop the spread of infection and save the tooth from extraction. In most cases, decay is detected in a mild to moderate stage, where it has reached the tooth’s dentin (main body), but not the nerves and blood vessels within the pulp. Removing the infected dentin and replacing it with a tooth-colored filling can help restore the tooth’s health and function. Depending on your needs, we may recommend placing a dental crown over the tooth for additional protection.
ABOUT YOUR SOUTHLAKE DENTISTS:
As a native Texan, Gregory Wright, DDS, opened his private practice in Southlake, TX in 1992. He and Dr. Victoria Heron are happily accepting new patients from Southlake, Grapevine, Keller, Trophy Club, Colleyville, and all surrounding communities. To learn more, call our office today at (817) 481-7999.