2104 Old Spartanburg Rd Greer, SC 29650

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Dental Decay

Almost one-third of all adults in the United States have untreated tooth decay. Without proper treatment, dental decay will widen and deepen. This can lead to a tooth abscess, cavity, severe toothache, tooth loss, and other serious complications. Carraway Family and Cosmetic Dentistry is a general dental clinic in Greer, SC that is committed to giving you fantastic dental treatment results. To reduce the chance of dental decay leading to issues with your teeth, it is important to learn about what decay is, what causes it, and how to prevent it.

WHAT IS DENTAL DECAY?

To have a thorough discussion of dental decay, we must first talk about the structure of a tooth. The outer layer of a tooth is a substance known as enamel. Tooth enamel is a crystalline structure made of calcium and phosphorus ions linked together in a mineral form known as hydroxyapatite. Enamel is linked to the second layer of the tooth structure known as dentin. Dentin is softer than enamel and is important to the structural integrity of the tooth. Dentin also contains hydroxyapatite, but in a lower percentage. The dental pulp is the inner layer of the tooth and houses the nerve and blood vessels of the tooth.

Dental decay is the loss of calcium and phosphorus ions from the mineral structure of the tooth resulting in the decreased structural integrity of the tooth. This demineralization of calcium and phosphorus happens when the tooth structure is exposed to acid. The most common source of acid is

WHAT CAUSES DECAY?

The human mouth is full of many types of bacteria. Some of the bacteria are helpful, while others can be harmful. When decay-causing bacteria react with sugars in the foods and drinks you consume, they produce acids that eat away at your teeth. Weakened enamel is vulnerable to dental decay, which begins as unnoticeable damage and gradually progresses to the inner and softer layers of the tooth. Considering how dental decay occurs, certain factors increase the risk of the health problem. They include:

• Poor oral hygiene practices

  • The removal of harmful bacteria is an important step in preventing tooth decay for two reasons. First, the accumulation of bacteria in the form of a biofilm leads to the production of acid that demineralizes tooth structure and ultimately leads to a cavity. Secondly, the biofilm prevents the penetration of fluoride to the tooth surface. Fluoride is the active ingredient in the majority of toothpastes, and works to prevent cavities by remineralizing the crystalline structure of enamel by carrying calcium and phosphate ions to the enamel structure. If a bacterial biofilm is present on the tooth surface due to poor oral hygiene practices, fluoride can not reach the tooth surface and can not effectively prevent dental decay.
  • We recommend patients use a WaterPik brand water flosser twice daily prior to brushing to remove the biofilm from the tooth surface. After using the WaterPik, we recommend using an electric toothbrush to not only remove plaque but also to apply fluoride to the tooth surface. It is important to use an electric toothbrush for a full two minutes at least twice per day. Af

• Suffering from a dry mouth

• Enamel issues and deep tooth crevices

• Fluoride deficiency

• Age: Babies, toddlers, and older adults are at a higher risk of developing tooth decay

• Eating disorders such as bulimia or anorexia

HOW DO I PREVENT DECAY?

Dental decay is largely preventable. However, you need to develop and stick to a comprehensive oral hygiene routine. Below are tips to help you keep your mouth and teeth healthy and prevent dental decay and cavities.

Brush regularly: To take care of your teeth and gums, brush at least twice a day using fluoridated toothpaste. You should also clean between your teeth using floss or interdental cleaners. This will help to prevent the buildup of plaque.

Eat a nutritious and balanced diet: Healthy and nutritious foods help to promote strong teeth. Fruits and vegetables will also assist in removing plaque from your teeth. Lastly, drink plenty of water to keep your oral cavity hydrated, especially if you have a dry mouth.

Limit your intake of sugary foods and drinks: Foods and drinks that are high in sugars and starches can contribute directly to dental decay. To prevent damage to your teeth, try to avoid soft drinks, candies, and cookies.

Drink water from the tap: Unlike most bottled water, tap water usually contains fluoride. Fluoride and saliva supply the minerals that tooth enamel needs to repair itself. This helps to keep the enamel strong, effectively protecting it from decay.

Visit your dentist regularly: Be sure to see your dentist at least twice a year for checkups and professional dental cleanings. You can ask the dental expert about sealants and supplemental fluoride.

Lastly, avoid habits such as teeth grinding that wear down the outer layer of the enamel, increasing the risk of dental decay.

HOW DO YOU TREAT DECAY?

When you seek treatment for dental decay, your dentist will focus on fixing the damage and preventing the decay from spreading. The treatment plan will usually depend on the severity of the condition and your specific situation. Here are some common treatment options.

FLUORIDE TREATMENTS

In the early stages of tooth decay and before permanent damage occurs, the affected teeth can be treated with fluoride. Your dentist will apply fluoride treatments directly to your teeth, a mineral that will help the enamel to repair itself. Fluoride treatments can be in the form of foam, gel, varnish, or solution.

FILLINGS

A filling is a suitable treatment option when cavities occur as a result of tooth decay. Your dentist will drill the affected tooth to remove decayed tooth tissue. They will then use filling materials such as ceramic, porcelain, resin, or dental amalgam to fill the hole.

DENTAL CROWN

When the cavities are larger, restoring the tooth may require the use of a crown. The dentist will remove the outer surface of the tooth as well as the decayed tissue. Next, they will take an impression of the tooth, fit a temporary crown before finally cementing a permanent cap over the tooth to restore its appearance and function.

ROOT CANAL

If damage and infection spread to the pulp, a root canal may be necessary. The dentist will remove the decayed pulp, clean the root and tooth, and apply medicine to fight bacteria. The root canals will then be filled using a rubber-like substance and a filling or crown placed on your tooth.

TOOTH EXTRACTION

In case dental decay has caused extensive damage that cannot be fixed, your dentist may recommend a tooth extraction. Once the affected tooth has been pulled out, you can get a bridge or implant to replace it. This will protect your bite and keep the adjacent teeth from moving over.

HOW DID I GET A CAVITY ON A TOOTH THAT ALREADY HAS A FILLING OR ALREADY HAS A CROWN?

Unfortunately, you can get a cavity on a tooth with an existing filling or crown. This may happen due to leakage around the dental restorations. Chewing and teeth grinding cause pressure on fillings, something that can lead to the dental restorations wearing away, chipping, or cracking. Ill-fitting crowns and bad oral hygiene can also contribute to tooth decay.

The above events will cause gaps to form over time, allowing bacteria to get under the filling or crown. Decay will start around the edges of the dental restorations and progressively spread underneath. This could ultimately result in cavities. To minimize the risk of dental decay and cavities, ensure you maintain proper oral hygiene and visit your dentist regularly.

At Carraway Family and Cosmetic Dentistry, we are a general dental office in Greer, SC that focuses on preventative care and patient education. We are committed to providing the best care possible for all our patients in Greenville and the surrounding areas. Contact us today to learn more and to schedule your appointment.