Meng-Chieh Lee D.D.S., M.M.Sc.

Tooth Decay: When it is Time to Fight Back

Tooth decay is serious in relation to both your health along with your smile. In addition to affecting your teeth and impacting your smile, there are a number of other health complications that arise with tooth decay. These include:

  • Gum Disease: The inflammation of the gum line that can affect the bones surrounding your teeth. This could lead to gingivitis, periodontitis and advanced periodontitis.
  • Respiratory Infections: If you are afflicted with gum disease, one could potentially go down the path towards these respiratory problems. While this is not an immediate connection, if you are constantly breathing in bacteria from decaying teeth, there could be issues
  • Cardiovascular Disease: The bacteria from inflammation of the gums and periodontal disease can enter your bloodstream and travel to the arteries in the heart and cause atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). Atherosclerosis causes plaque to develop on the inner walls of arteries, which thicken and this decreases or may block blood flow through the body. This can cause an increased risk of heart attack or stroke. The inner lining of the heart can also become infected and inflamed.

Thankfully, there are methods to avoiding tooth decay and habits to avoid these problems. You can improve the look of your teeth through the use of veneers as well.


Tooth Destroying Bacteria

There are a plethora of food and drink that serve as hazards to your teeth. Foods with high levels of acidity form and thus weaken the teeth. These include:

  • Apples
  • Oranges
  • Cranberry Juice
  • Lemonade
  • Vinegar
  • Lemon in water or tea
  • Sports and Energy Drinks
  • Mints or Cough Drops
  • Coffee

These types of bacteria are found in carbohydrates as well including bread, chips, crackers and so on.

To avoid the risk of bacteria growth, avoid these in order to decrease the likeliness of tooth decay.


How to Reduce Bacteria on Teeth

There are methods to avoiding tooth decay all together. If followed on a regular basis, you can reduce the likeliness of significant growth of tooth bacteria.

  • Brush TWICE a day. When you brush your teeth, make sure that brush for two minutes. Ideally, make sure you brush before breakfast and then after dinner.
  • Avoid any desserts or foods with high amounts of sugar after brushing your teeth in the evening.
  • Strengthen your teeth by using mouthwash with fluoride.
  • Chew Xylitol gum or mints. Dentists may recommend using prescription fluoride toothpaste at home or fluoride treatments during dental cleanings


Other Risk Factors

In addition to the above factors, there are other factors that could lead to tooth decay. These include:

  • Dry Mouth
  • Recreational drug use
  • Smoking cigarettes
  • Medical conditions relating to salivary glands
  • Exposed root surfaces of teeth
  • Radiation Therapy to the head and neck


Tooth Veneers

Dental Veneers can serve to mask any of these indicators of tooth decay. A dental veneer is a shell, or layer of tooth-colored porcelain or composite that is placed over the facial surfaces of your teeth to correct worn tooth enamel, uneven tooth alignment or spacing, discoloration and chips or cracks. These veneers can serve to cover up imperfections including:

  • Worn Teeth
  • Uneven Teeth
  • Genetics


Benefits of Tooth Veneers

Veneers are a better option than tooth colored fillings because they are stronger, last longer and the materiel will not stain. While Veneers are more conservative than crowns, taking away less tooth structure to prepare the tooth, at times a full coverage crown may be needed when the structure of the tooth is compromised or to completely mask severely stained/ darkened teeth. 

There are a couple types of veneers that can be installed. These include porcelain and composite resin.


Veneer Procedure

There are several steps in the procedure. First, your dentist will likely administer a local anesthetic so you will be comfortable during tooth preparation and placement of the veneer. Your natural tooth is then prepared by minimally reshaping it with a small handheld rotational cutting device called a bur to provide the best fit. Burs come in various shapes and sizes and allow precise and minimal shaping of a tooth prior to placement.

If your treatment involves direct composite resin veneers, your dentist then will apply the appropriately shaded composite to your teeth, shape the material and harden it using a high intensity light. Additional layers of composite may be applied to build the veneer to the correct shape, length and form for your smile. When all composite is placed, the veneers will be finished and polished using burs and polishers to create a vital and lifelike smile.

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