Dental Tooth Decay sounds like something we should have solved by now, but unfortunately it is still a very common disease disproportionally affecting people with limited financial resources. This is my 40th year of practicing dentistry and I am still amazed at the amount of preventable dental issues many people have. Just because it is common doesn’t mean it cannot be controlled.
The marketing to the American population by toothpaste companies over the decades has highlighted the benefits of brushing, flossing and regularly seeing the dentist.
Depending on your age, you may remember the “Look Mom-no cavities” series on TV or in the Norman Rockwell illustrations?
There has been a great deal of value from the repetitive nature of the commercials. Not only does it educate and inform, it establishes a social norm for taking care of your teeth. Toothpastes have certainly changed over the decades, and the latest trend has been to make them “multi-tasking”.
Even with all the advances, certain behaviors are critical to help people keep their teeth. The importance of regular preventive visits to your dentist are critical to completely remove the bacteria from all tooth surfaces, apply cavity preventing Fluoride, and catch decay early so that minimal tooth structure is lost. The other critical behavior is solid and consistent dental hygiene on a daily basis. Investing less than 10 minutes a day to brush at least twice, floss at least once and use toothpaste and mouth rinses with Fluoride as recommended.
Prevention in Dentistry has been very effective for most people. However, the decay process involves three main components:
- a susceptible host (person)
- abundant presence of the specific bacteria (strep mutans & lactobacillus)
- presence of fermentable carbohydrates (sugars)
As with most diseases in medicine, we look at risk factors to predict one’s likelihood of developing the disease. In dentistry, there is three risk levels; Low , Moderate and High risk. I am attaching a paper I published in 2005 that explains the current science in diagnosing the decay process.2005 Compendium Caries pre-pub draft
Not one of us is perfect and life happens. If we have gotten off track, we can start over and correct any active disease process and return to healthy habits. No matter what, keeping your own teeth is always better than any substitutes, and can save you a small fortune on reparative dental care.