Back in the 1700s, it was believed that tooth worms caused cavities starting from within the tooth and eating their way out. Sounds silly now, but cavities do start below the enamel surface working their way out causing a lesion on the outer surface visible to the eye. Bacteria can enter the teeth through microscopic holes. Once inside, these bacteria grow and produce acids causing decay. We may see only a small lesion on the surface of the tooth, but great damage often occurs beneath the surface eating away at the inner layers and eventually reaching the nerve of the teeth. At this point, root canals are necessary to save the teeth. Enamel continues to breaks down and large crater-like lesions are eventually seen on the surface.
Acids from juices, sodas, energy drinks, and acids produced by bacteria penetrate the surface of the enamel, demineralizing the teeth from within. If there is a low frequency consumption of acidic foods and beverages, the saliva starts to remineralize the enamel; however, if there is a high frequency of consumption, then the protective properties of saliva (fluoride, enzymes) can’t keep up with the demineralization/remineralization process. Demineralization first appears as a white mark with a chalky appearance often located on the teeth near the gum line. With continued acid attacks on the teeth, the enamel breaks away from the teeth necessitating restorations.
There are several ways to detect cavities. Some cavities are obvious and can be seen visually. Others are not so obvious for reasons noted above. When a cavity is detected by an x-ray, the lesion is already about 30% through the enamel. X-rays aren’t able to detect early decay. We do not use sharp explorers that poke at the teeth to detect decay as they can further damage weakened enamel. Instead, we check visually with an intraoral camera, take x-rays, and use a laser which can detect cavities in the earliest stages of development.
The DIAGNOdent laser scans the teeth using a reflected light that detects bacteria that causes cavities underneath the enamel surface. The cavity is detected by an audible signal and a numeric scale that grades the extent of its progression.
Be on the safe side; have cavities restored early before they progress beyond needing a filling. When cavities progress and become deeper, the likelihood of needing a crown, root canal or both, or even an extraction increases. DON’T WAIT! Call Rhonda and make an appointment for an exam and x-rays today.
Susan Divine, RDH