We always anticipate the moment when the dentist comes in and completes the dental exam. We’re all waiting (even me…..) for the verdict, do I have any cavities? Nobody likes having dental work done. Dentists talk all the time about prevention, but what does that mean exactly?
We get cavities in teeth when the intricate dance between bad bacteria, a nutrient supply for them and our ability to remove and kill them is upset in their favor. The Venn diagram below explains it, if we have teeth, bad bacteria and a food source, we are at risk for getting cavities in our teeth.
If you are able to decrease the importance of one or more of the three big circles, your risk for cavities decreases also.
This is why we ask to limit sugars and other complex ferment-able carbohydrates (breads) in your diet. It decreases the importance of the pink circle.
Making the yellow circle smaller means brushing and flossing, seeing your hygienist and using fluoride to remove and kill bacteria.
Unfortunately, we want you to keep your teeth, so for the most part, the blue circle stays where it is.
We have one other big defense against cavities and that is remineralization. Cavities are areas of teeth that have had their crystal structure damaged. Fluoride in appropriate concentrations not only kills bacteria, it also works to “heal” early damage to this crystal structure. The more often you put fluoride on your teeth, the better this “healing” process works.
The x-ray below shows an area of demineralized enamel. You can compare it to the healthy enamel in the tooth next door.
We call this an incipient lesion, meaning it’s about to turn into a real lesion. These are the kinds of early cavities that fluoride is good at “healing”. To make this work, you need to commit to being great with brushing, flossing and with fluoride use. We also require monitoring of these lesions. If that decay progresses and we don’t see it, it can get very big, very quickly. This generally means we would need to take these x-rays more often for a while, to be sure the early cavity isn’t growing
However, when we do all of these things, we have helped many patients keep teeth like this unrestored for years. Which makes everyone happy.