Fast Facts about Tooth Decay
- U.S. adults lose 164+ million hours of work and children lose 51+million hours of school each year due to dental disease
- Caries (dental decay) is the most prevalent disease affecting children in the U.S, and it is 100% preventable
- 400+ commonly used medications can cause decreased saliva flow, which greatly increases your risk of caries
- Approximately 25% of dental decay is untreated among every age group
What is Tooth Decay?
In the past decade we have leapt forward in the risk assessment, detection and treatment of caries, the disease that causes tooth decay. Here's what we know:
Caries is a disease that creates an acid challenge. Certain strains of bacteria that can infect the mouth produce acids. In addition, we eat and drink many acidic foods/beverages. When the pH level (inverse measure of acidity) in the mouth is less 5.5 the enamel begins to break down, giving up calcium and thereby neutralizing the environment. White spots on the enamel are the first visible sign of decay, but by then there are often cavities between the teeth, that are only detectible by x-ray.
Bacteria in the form of plaque (or biofilm) is acid-producing. It eats sugar/carbohydrates and spits acid out as a byproduct. Some biofilm is more acid-producing than others. Now we have the technology to measure that for each individual.
The frequency of sugars you eat keeps these bacteria fed and producing and the increase in sugared beverage consumption has skyrocketed in the past two decades. In addition, our food supply has become more and more acidic. If you eat or drink frequently the acid bath is worse.
We have natural combat weapon--our saliva, which is generally basic (opposite of acidic). Good saliva flow causes re-mineralizing and re-neutralizing. Unfortunately, 400+ widely prescribed medications often reduce saliva flow, leading to a dry mouth and the acids take advantage.
What to Expect from Our Team
We now have sophisticated methods of assessing the risk for caries--even before it eats holes in your teeth. By measuring the acidity of the biofilm with the CariFree meter, and looking at your personal risk factors and disease history, we can actually predict how cavity prone you are.
Treatment strategies hover around six proven remedies:
- Food and/or beverage modifications
- An antibacterial attack including Fluoride and Xylitol
- A pH neutralization rinse such as sodium hypochlorite
- Xylitol consumption, a sugar that is proven to reduce the growth and acid production of the culpable bacteria
- Calcium phosphate particles that actually re-mineralize beginning cavities
- Topical Fluoride (especially varnish) which is both an anti-caries agent and a re-mineralizing agent.
We offer complete kits that are easy to use and contain some or ALL of the above therapeutic ingredients, depending on your risk level. With a biofilm test, a dental history and a report of lifestyle risks (including diet and medications), we will help you understand your risk, and the treatment regimen that is just right for you!
Lastly, Dr. Susan has created an online tool to help you assess your risk for tooth decay.