Understanding tooth decay in San Francisco
In today’s fast-paced society, people frequently turn to snacks and fast food, bypassing a nutritious meal for one that is filled with starches and sugars. Unfortunately, many are oblivious to the detrimental effect these choices can have on their oral health. Oral bacteria thrive on the overabundance of starch and sugar and produce acids that can lead to tooth decay, which is the second most frequently occurring health disorder, surpassed only by the common cold. Although most often occurring in children, young adults, and seniors, decay can affect anyone of any age.
Oral bacteria, the acid they produce, saliva, and food particles combine and form a sticky biofilm called plaque. The sticky film clings to teeth, especially on the molars, at the gumline, and at the edge of fillings. Plaque begins forming within twenty minutes of eating. When it isn’t removed promptly, decay will begin. The acid in the plaque damages the hard tooth enamel by dissolving, or demineralizing it.
The demineralization creates tiny openings in the weakened enamel, which are the initial stages of cavities. Once the enamel erodes, the acid and bacteria reach the dentin layer of the tooth, which is softer and has less resistance to the acid. The destruction of the tooth continues as the bacteria and acid chew through the dentin and reaches the pulp in center of the tooth, damaging it. At this point, sensitivity to temperatures, and a severe toothache are likely to develop.
The method of treatment depends on the extent of the decay. All procedures require that the decayed portion of the tooth structure be removed. If the cavity was caught in the early stages, a resin or porcelain filling can repair the damage effectively with a natural look. If the tooth has been structurally weakened by the cavity, a dental onlay or crown may be necessary to strengthen and protect it. When the decay has reached the inner portion of the tooth, root canal therapy may be necessary to remove the damaged pulp and save the tooth. This treatment can make a tooth brittle, so a crown may be placed over the tooth to prevent breakage.
We use the Diagnodent® laser to detect cavities before they are visible to the naked eye or x-rays, enabling us to focus on the earliest, easiest treatment possible. Although early treatment is less expensive and less painful than treating extensive decay, prevention is the best treatment of all. Making wise food choices, practicing excellent oral hygiene, dental sealants, and regularly visiting Dr. Leo Arellano and his talented dental team is the smoothest path to optimal oral health in San Francisco. Call 415-881-4343 and schedule a checkup today.