Everyone has had a cold, and almost just as many people have faced tooth decay and the problems it causes. In the US, tooth decay is second to the common cold in terms of the frequency of cases diagnosed. Tooth decay causes cavities, of course, but it can also present a number of other threats to your oral and general health, especially if the decay isn’t addressed as soon as possible.
Your dentist at Edgewood Dental Care is an expert at filling cavities, and we provide tooth-colored fillings that are aesthetically superior to silver amalgam (traditional fillings that leave telltale black spots on your teeth). With the DIAGOdent Cavity Detection Laser, we can catch cavities much earlier than ever before, and stop them before they become an issue (early enough, we may not even need to do a filling)!
However, why not simply prevent these problems from arising in the first place? While you may be very disciplined in your approach to your oral care at home (brushing, flossing, and rinsing with a mouthwash twice a day), you can’t do it alone. Your dentist can help by taking proactive steps to prevent tooth decay and protect your oral health and your smile.
Fluoride’s Role in Preventing Tooth Decay
One of the most significant medical miracles of the 20th century is the fluoridation of municipal water supplies. While it is the subject of many wild conspiracy theories, adding fluoride to the water supply has significantly reduced the occurrence of tooth decay, and increased the health and quality of life for those who live in places where fluoridation is practiced. Fluoride is now found in most of the toothpastes you can buy at the store, among other oral hygiene products.
Enamel and Fluoride
Enamel is the protective physical barrier that forms the top layer of your tooth’s structure. Enamel is the hardest naturally occurring substance in your body, even harder than bone, but it isn’t impervious to damage. Enamel, when lost (as a result of injury, or due to certain dental procedures) doesn’t grow back or heal like other parts of your body. Your body must rebuild enamel, much in the same way that a brick wall that has been knocked down must also be reconstructed. Your enamel is made of mineral crystals, densely packed together. Under constant attack from the acids that cause tooth decay, your enamel loses these mineral crystals; this is called demineralization. Your enamel is rebuilt as your body replaces the lost mineral crystals, a process called remineralization. Tooth decay happens when the demineralization process outpaces remineralization. When this happens, the acids that cause tooth decay get past the enamel and begin eating their way inside the tooth. This will create cavities, and if the cavity and decay isn’t stopped, it can lead to tooth loss, or even the formation of an abscess on your gums (which can be deadly in some circumstances).
Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral, and it pervades the environment; it’s added to drinking water, but it is found in natural water sources (even in concentrations higher than is safe for human consumption), and you can get it from the food you eat as well. Fluoride can also be manmade.
Fluoride strengthens your enamel in two key ways: it makes your enamel more resistant to the acids that cause decay, and it accelerates your teeth’s ability to absorb minerals and remineralize the enamel. The faster your enamel remineralizes, the better it can prevent tooth decay from progressing to more serious levels.
Your body can get the fluoride to your enamel in two ways. The first is systemic absorption: fluoride is consumed in food and drink and makes its way to the enamel. It can also be absorbed through topical application, which is commonly called a fluoride treatment.
While anyone can benefit significantly from a topical fluoride treatment from your dentist, it is especially useful for children (who are more prone to tooth decay). It is also a way to enhance your enamel if you struggle with tooth decay; the fact of the matter is, some people just don’t remineralize their enamel as fast others, and these people generally have a harder time controlling and preventing tooth decay. If you’ve had a lot of cavities filled, you can slow down the formation of more cavities, or prevent them entirely, with a pain and discomfort free fluoride treatment. It’s a simple process: your dentist will “paint” a fluoride gel on the surface of your teeth. The gel has a highly concentrated quantity of fluoride, which ensures an optimal benefit. One fluoride treatment will enhance your enamel’s ability to protect your teeth for months!
Struggling With Tooth Decay?
Do you still have trouble with tooth decay, even if you take the necessary steps to keep your teeth well maintained and in good health? Make an appointment with us to get the care you need for the long term health of your teeth.