Making Tooth Decay
~ by Robert S. Leland, DMD
A few years ago, a patient asked me jokingly when she could expect to receive her first cloned tooth. We chuckled at the thought. Dental-cloning research wasn’t even on the horizon at that point. But time flies in the technological age. Today, scientists are experimenting with stem cells and such giddy concepts as 3-D polymer tissue engineering scaffolds; the race is on to develop the first successfully-cloned human tooth.
Cloned teeth may be a while in coming, but what if there was a way – today– to make tooth decay a thing of the past? Sound farfetched? Most of us would say yes. We tend to think of caries, or tooth decay, as an unfortunate but inevitable fact of life. We don’t usually view it as a complex disease yet it has all the attributes of one.
Tooth decay is an infection caused by specific bacteria in the mouth, Bacteria attach themselves to teeth, feed on sugars from food or drink you’ve consumed, and create acids. Small amounts of acid can be neutralized by saliva, a power house of minerals which can keep bacteria count to a minimum, and even repair early, minor damage to tooth enamel. When meals are frequent, however, sugars become abundant and bacteria multiply. They overpower your mouth’s defenses, producing ever larger quantities of acid as a by-product of digesting what is now their food. Eventually, acid takes over the environment in your mouth and begins to do real damage to your teeth. The result is a cavity, or two, or three, or more!
Leland Dental has now incorporated a system called CariFree, which diagnoses and treats risk factors for decay. This system signals a radical change in the way we view tooth decay. CariFree treats decay as an infectious disease that is not only curable but preventable. It strikes tooth decay proactively – and early, before it has had time to break down healthy tooth structure. CariFree marshals a complex assault on tooth decay. When used regularly, it helps establish a healthy balance between the bacterial acids and conditions that produce cavities, and the protective factors that prevent them.
The science behind Carifree has been with us for some time. In recent years, however, dental professionals, scientists, academics and health organizations worldwide, including the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry and the American Dental Association, have supported the effort to develop a universal system of implementation for this innovative approach to disease prevention. The team here at Leland Dental is delighted to announce that we are initiating this state-of-the-art protocol into the practice.
CariFree focuses on treating tooth decay proactively – before it has had time to break down healthy tooth structure. It establishes a healthy pH balance in your mouth, which protects teeth, and simultaneously, creates ideal conditions for preservation and restoration of teeth already damaged by cavities. Early-stage decay can often be detected and healed by the mouth’s own natural system, eliminating the need for invasive restorations.
The CariFree approach is a complex assault on tooth decay, but the protocol for each patient is a relatively simple team approach. As with all preventative medicine, it takes practice and commitment. At Leland Dental, this system is integrated with your regular schedule of cleaning and examinations. Your exam may begin with a ten-second swab test to determine the level of decay-causing bacteria in your mouth. We’ll check your teeth, gums and bite as usual. Then you’ll complete a brief questionnaire documenting good habits — such as brushing or rinsing after meals – that decrease caries risk in your mouth. Conversely, you’ll list bad habits or medical issues – frequent snacking, acidic beverages, smoking, or dry mouth caused by medications — that might be increasing your risk of tooth decay. Armed with these, we’ll assign you a risk level (low, moderate, high and extreme) for future decay.
Next, we develop a treatment plan tailored to the specific conditions of your mouth and teeth. Based on your risk level, your treatment plan may include:
Topical or systemic fluoride
Calcium phosphate or fluoride toothpastes
Antibacterial rinses with low acidity
• pH neutralizing rinses or pastes
• Diet control and counseling
• Personalized oral hygiene instruction
• Products to combat dry mouth (e.g. Biotene)
It may be necessary to initially treat any areas of decay as well with appropriate restorations (fillings, crowns etc.). Once balance is successfully restored, CariFree’s system of care will help protect new restorations as well as older ones from further decay or damage.
The standard of medicine is “First, do no harm.” CariFree advances prevention, a principle that for 35 years has been a central part of treatment at Leland Dental, We use risk assessment and caries management, early detection of tooth decay, and buttressing of the natural process of remineralization to minimize the need for drilling and filling. When restorations are necessary to treat active decay, we will use procedures that are as minimally invasive as possible to achieve the best long-term results. For a child born today, CariFree, and the science and philosophy behind it, could mean a lifetime free from tooth decay.
Call Leland Dental at 781-826-8395 or contact us online at LelandDental.com for more information on CariFree or to book an appointment.
Robert S. Leland, DMD, PC.
51 Mill Street • Hanover
781-826-8395 • www.LelandDental.com
WE WARMLY WELCOME NEW PATIENTS