According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, tooth decay is the most prevalent and preventable chronic disease in children and adults today. Tooth decay is typically symptomless until there’s already a cavity or a tooth abscess (an infection at the root of a tooth or in the gums), both of which can lead to pain and tooth loss if left untreated. That’s why at Ark-La-Tex Pediatric Dentistry, we make prevention of tooth decay your dental plan’s primary focus.
What Is Tooth Decay?
Tooth decay occurs when the mouth’s naturally occurring, harmful bacteria combine with the sugars from food, producing acids. Over time, the acids eat away at your tooth’s enamel, causing tooth decay and eventually cavities or dental caries. Symptoms of tooth decay or a tooth abscess include:
- A toothache
- Swelling in the gums
- Bad breath/taste in the mouth
- Gray, brown, or black spots on your teeth
If you have a diet high in sugars and carbohydrates, drink from a water source that does not contain fluoride, or suffer from reduced salivary flow, you may be at risk for tooth decay. Young children are at higher risk for decay than are adults.
Preventing Tooth Decay
Successful preventive care requires good oral hygiene practices at home and routine visits to the dentist. At Ark-La-Tex Pediatric Dentistry, our Texarkana and New Boston dentist Dr. Brian Steele understands that finding a dentist you have confidence in is key to maintaining a healthy smile, so we put extra effort and time into forming a long-term, trust-based relationship with all of our patients.
The following are steps you can take at home and during your routine dental visits to prevent tooth decay and improve your overall oral health:
- Eat healthy foods that are low in sugar.
- Brush and floss a minimum of two times each day.
- Use a mouthwash or rinse regularly.
- Schedule routine visits and cleanings.
- Consider having regular fluoride treatments, especially if you don’t get fluoride in your drinking water.
- Have dental sealants applied to your back teeth if they are free of fillings and decay; dental sealants are especially effective at protecting children’s teeth.
Treatment of Tooth Decay
If you have been diagnosed with tooth decay, the best course of treatment will depend on its severity. The following treatments are used once decay has eaten through tooth enamel:
- Filling: The decay is removed and Dr. Steele fills the hole with one of several materials, based on your preference, returning it to its natural form.
- Crown: If your tooth is severely damaged, a tooth-shaped cap is made to replace the damaged area.
- Root canal: If infection has reached the pulp of your tooth, Dr. Steele will remove the infected area and replace damaged or missing parts of the affected tooth with a crown.
- Extraction: If the extent of the decay is severe, removal of the damaged tooth may be necessary.