Monday, August 4, 2014

Dentin Decay

Detect decay by inspecting the color and hardness
Usually, dental decay is fairly easy to detect. When a cavity is just beginning, it is typically identified by a brown or white color or a change in the translucency of the enamel of the tooth. The dentist or dental hygienist uses a special dental instrument called an explorer to feel the suspect area and check its hardness. If the area is hard, in other words, if no break in the enamel layer is detected, we feel there is not a cavity present. If, however, the surface feels soft and the explorer "sticks" in the suspect site, we feel a cavity is present.

Fluoride makes our enamel stronger, but dentin decay is harder to detect Because of the widespread use and availability of fluoride in our drinking water, foods, and oral care products, we are seeing a different decay pattern. The appearance is different from the typical pattern of decay and more difficult to detect. As the outer surface of the enamel absorbs fluoride (from toothpaste, for example), the enamel becomes very resistant to demineralization and eventual decay. If there is a small break in the integrity of the enamel, a pit or groove where decay-causing bacteria can live, the bacteria can dissolve the enamel in such a way that the hole in the enamel cannot be detected. Once the decay-causing bacteria reach the underlying dentin, the acids eat away at that substance and quickly make a large cavity - but one that still cannot be easily seen or detected. In this way the enamel becomes undermined. A dentist looking at such a small cavity would think it very easy to restore. However, once the decayed portion of the enamel is removed and the dentin becomes visible, the true extent of the damage becomes obvious. The small cavity becomes a big cavity.

One of the major problems with decay that appears to occur only in the dentin is in the detection. If a radiograph is taken a part of the periodic examination process, we may be able to see dentin decay if it is moderate to extensive. Decay seen on radiographs is typically two to seven times greater in the tooth. Modern high-speed radiographic film and reduced x-ray exposure makes it more difficult to detect early decay on radiographs.

You can prevent decay by using fluoride
The conscientious application of a source of topical fluoride, through either an over-the-counter dentifrice or a prescription fluoride product, and thorough plaque removal are essential. Bonded sealants are also an effective protection against dentin decay. We strongly advice these procedures. Periodic examinations at intervals recommended by the dentist catch decay at the earliest possible time. This is the only way to keep small problems from developing into larger problems.

Click here to check out our blog post on foods that cause decay. 
Click here for our post on how to prevent decay.

If you have any questions about dentin decay, please feel free to ask us. 

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