Tooth decay is a common problem in our adult patient population as well as children and young adults.  Unfortunately, tooth decay can be an extensive and expensive problem because the decay will often occur under and around fillings, crowns, and bridges.  In many instances, the fillings, crowns, and bridges require replacement as significant cost in time and money.

The problem is often due to chronic dietary intake of sugar.  Tooth decay is caused by germs which attach to and grow on the teeth.  These germs cannot grow on the teeth and therefore cannot cause tooth decay unless they manufacture a special type of glue.  They cannot produce this glue unless they are exposed to sugar.

The pattern of dietary sugar intake is the key factor.  Sugar eaten in a short time period (minutes), such as a dessert or snack, is not a problem.  Slow, continuous sugar intake over several hours is deadly to your teeth.

Examples of continuous sugar intake that should be avoided include:

  • Hard candies
  • Breath mints
  • Candies which dissolve slowly
  • Soda sipped slowly over time (not diet)
  • Coffee or tea sipped slowly over time (with sugar)
  • Tums chewed for calcium content
  • Gum (not sugarless)
  • Raisins or dried fruit
  • Honey

It is important to understand that no amount of tooth brushing will counteract the effects of chronic sugar intake.

Tooth decay is a potential problem among periodontal patients because of gum recession and exposure of root surfaces.  The solution involves avoidance of chronic sugar intake, proper oral hygiene, use of fluoride containing toothpaste and cleanings at regular intervals.

If tooth decay is not detected in its early stages, it may expose the nerve of the tooth, necessitating root canal treatment.  Bitewing radiographs (X-Rays) should be taken at 6-12 month intervals, since clinical examinations cannot detect tooth decay which forms between the teeth.

Preventative dental care helps you avoid cavities, but often they still occur.  Be sure to make regular appointments to have your teeth examined and cleaned, and to follow the instructions given to you in our office.

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