It is not impossible to go through life without ever experiencing dental decay, but it is not likely. So when your dentist can detect a cavity in its earliest stage, the repair can be done with less impact to the tooth leaving the tooth as strong as possible with the smallest filling.
Before the availability of decay detection with laser technology, your dentist would have to rely on dental radiographs and the dental pic to spot a cavity. A crevice in the tooth, a small stain, or a shadow all became “watch” areas when decay was too small to diagnose.
But now the laser can objectively spot decay immediately. What does this mean for the patient? A cavity can be repaired removing much less of the tooth allowing the tooth to retain its integrity and strength.
In addition, the filling is much smaller making it less visible. But aesthetics aside, an immediate and smaller filling also means less of a chance for more extensive treatment. When decay has a chance to grow, it allows bacteria to permeate creating the opportunity for an infection.
If the root becomes involved, quite often the only option is a root canal. Patients who do not want to undergo endodontic therapy in this case have only one alternative, and that is tooth extraction. So it is easy to see the advantage of early detection.
There are many steps the patient can take to reduce their chance of incurring dental decay including:
- Limit sugary snacks and beverages. Dental decay is the result of bacteria that clings to teeth in the form of plaque and tartar. Starting out as a sticky substance, plaque allowed to sit on teeth hardens. Sugar sticks to plaque increasing its build-up. Once plaque starts to build, the only way to remove it is through a professional cleaning with your dental provider.
- Daily flossing. Using dental floss helps to remove contaminants your tooth brush might not reach between teeth and around the gum line.
- Brushing teeth following meals or snacks. Using a fluoridated tooth paste or gel, your tooth brush is a valuable asset coupled with fluoride rinses if recommended by your dentist.
- Visit your dentist every six months for a thorough cleaning and dental exam.
These steps are your best defense to prevent dental decay while maintaining healthy teeth and gums.