Dental decay or dental caries refers to when teeth develop holes caused by harmful bacteria in the mouth. Left untreated, small holes will eventually develop into larger holes and lead to sensitive or painful teeth and even dental abscesses. A filling is a procedure where the decay is cleaned from the tooth and repaired with a ‘filling’ material. Many People associate fillings with the traditional Amalgam fillings which are mercury-based and metal-coloured resulting in unsightly discoloured smiles. Nowadays there are many more options in filling material the most common being composite bonding – an aesthetic white filling material.
Plaque is a film of bacteria that produces acid and dissolves enamel. If the plaque is not cleaned away from the teeth, calcium is slowly leeched from these teeth and eventually creating a cavity in the tooth. Regular tooth brushing and flossing are essential to remove plaque.
Diet. Sugars and carbohydrates are the energy sources for bacteria. Pretty much all foods contain these substances to varying amount, but sweets in particular are high in sugars and so are the most damaging foods to teeth. By limiting sugary snacks, or eating them with meals, you are reducing the amount of damage the plaque acid can do. The consistency of the food is important too. Sticky lollies or dried fruit, for example, are in your mouth longer as they stick to the tooth surface.
Saliva is the body’s natural defence against dental decay as it can reduce the acidity within the mouth. Smoking, stress, some medications, caffeine and alcohol drinks slow down saliva production and increase the risk of caries. Minimising these factors and drinking tap water to keep well hydrated will make the most of your saliva.
Time. The longer the time your teeth are exposed to acids the more likely they are to decay. Dental decay doesn’t form overnight. Long-term bad habits in diet and or cleaning, or deficiencies in your saliva, are to blame.
Tooth Anatomy. The shape and position of your tooth can affect how easily teeth are cleaned. Deep grooves in teeth and crowded teeth more readily collect food and bacteria and are at a higher risk of developing decay. Fluoride in toothpaste can strengthen your enamel providing some extra protection.
Your best protection against dental caries is daily brushing, flossing, using fluoride toothpaste and maintaining regular dental visits. Talk to one of our dentists to see how you can improve the health of your teeth.
Teeth naturally have fissures and grooves and in some cases these grooves are quite deep becoming areas that are difficult to clean. To stop food and bacteria from lodging in these fissures a fissure seal is placed to seal the gaps. Fissure seals are commonly performed on teeth that have not yet had any decay or only very superficial staining of the fissures to form this protective layer.
Because the placement of fissure seals does not require extensive cutting of the tooth it is usually performed without the need of a numbing injection. This makes it an ideal preventative treatment for children to avoid the formation of dental decay in immature teeth where sometimes brushing is not performed optimally.