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Tooth Decay/Cavities

Cavities in Washington, DC

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Growing up, most people learn about tooth decay/cavities and the importance of avoiding getting “holes” in their teeth. But few realize this condition, also known as caries, is actually a preventable oral disease that affects many, if not, most people. Tooth decay happens when sugars and starches in foods get left on teeth and form a sticky film called plaque. It combines with the mouth’s bacteria and this plaque-bacteria combo is the culprit that produces acids that damage the outer enamel layer of teeth. The unwelcome result: Tooth Decay. However, the talented dentists at Washington Center for Dentistry can use several procedures such as fillings or root canals to treat decay and cavities.

So, how can a patient avoid cavities? Saliva in the mouth, thought to be the body’s natural defense against decay, can sometimes counteract the effects of plaque by acting as a buffer or re-mineralizing agent. But usually, saliva loses the battle against decay.

Risk Factors

Our dietary choices and our oral hygiene practices are major players in the tooth decay tableau. In fact, a healthy diet and proper eating habits are critical factors in keeping our mouth healthy and keeping tooth decay at bay. For example, foods and beverages that are high in sugar provide the perfect double-whammy to ramp up the occurrence of cavities.

Other risk factors include:

• Bacteria live in the mouths of all of us. So, no one is exempt from risk when it comes to tooth decay.
• A high-carb and high-sugar diet raises risk for anyone.
• Living in a community with un-fluoridated water leaves people vulnerable to tooth decay.
• People with fillings and crowns and other dental restorations are at risk since bacteria gather around the restorations and provide a higher chance of developing decay.

Prevention and Treatment

There are certain things that patients can do to reduce, or altogether prevent, the occurrence of tooth decay or cavities.

• Most of us already know flossing and brushing daily is the gold standard when it comes to preventing cavities to remove build-up and debris form between the teeth.
• Fluoride, a natural substance, also helps to re-mineralize tooth structure and to rebuild early damage caused by plaque bacteria. Once the province of treatment for children, fluoride now also plays a key role in preventing tooth decay in adults. In fact, science has shown in recent years that fluoride cuts down the incidence of decay in adults by 85%.
• Maintain a healthy diet of fruits and vegetables and nutritious foods.
• Avoid starchy foods and drinks high in sugar.
• Visit the dentist for regular hygiene visits and dental cleanings.
• Use an anti-microbial mouth rinse to help reduce plaque.
• Get a protective coating called “sealants” placed on the biting surfaces of your back teeth. This layer prevents decay from being formed in the crevices of teeth.

The important moment to catch and treat tooth decay is before it spreads to the nerve of the tooth. That’s when a dentist can remove the decay and fill the space with a dental filling. If the decay is allowed to reach the nerve of the tooth, often a “root canal” is needed to save the tooth. The invading decay causes an infection in the root that must be cleaned out. Healing medication is placed in the root, and then sealed off.

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Down with Decay!

One of the most common dental problems that patients experience is tooth decay/cavities. Not only is it unsightly, but painful and time-consuming. The highly-experienced dentists at Washington Center for Dentistry are here to help. We provide patient education, cleanings and hygiene appointments to prevent decay. If you're already suffering from it, we can effectively treat you to save your teeth and make and keep you healthier. If you want to learn more about our tooth decay/cavity treatments, we would be more than happy to discuss them with you. Give us a call today to schedule your appointment. 

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