The Resurgence of Tooth Decay

I mentioned in my last blog that tooth decay, unfortunately, is increasing once again. I have certainly seen this in my practice over the last few months. I also hear this from my colleagues and read about it in the trade journals. There are multiple factors believed to be responsible for this new epidemic. Time and space will not permit that discussion here, but I am happy to discuss your specific situation with you.

The good news is that our remedies for fighting tooth decay continue to improve. Crowns and composite restorations (tooth colored fillings) continue to improve in cosmetics, function and durability. We also have glass ionomer restorations, though not as appealing as composite, they are certainly preferable to silver fillings. The big advantage of glass ionomer is that it is fluoride releasing, which helps strengthen the tooth. Glass ionomer can also be used underneath a composite as a base for fluoride release. Then it is covered with composite to get a better shade match. Then there is the new material silver diamine fluoride, which is rapidly gaining popularity and for good reason. It is applied by simply brushing it on the tooth for one minute and then keeping the tooth dry for an additional minute. My last patient this morning came in for that procedure. They were literally in and out of the office in five minutes and did not have any injections. The material can be used as the definitive treatment for tooth decay if cosmetics is not an issue. (It will stain the tooth.) It can be applied to the deepest area of decay to hopefully avoid the need for a root canal and then it is covered with filling material or a crown. It can be used as a temporary fix until better treatment can be completed. It can also be used around the edges of current restorations such as fillings and crowns to prolong the life of those restorations. The secret is that it can be used only in situations where the decay has not yet gotten to the nerve of the tooth. In other words, don’t wait until it hurts to come see us!

I also highly recommend fluoride treatments for children and adults who do not have fluoride in their drinking water. It has long been established that fluoride at optimal levels helps to remineralize tooth enamel and make the teeth more resistant to decay. There are other products on the market that help accomplish remineralization as well. As has always been the case with tooth decay, prevention and early intervention are the keys to best health at the lowest cost. If we can be of service in any way please call our office.


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