One of the most common dental issues in patients of all ages is the development of cavities or tooth decay. Causes for this vary, but the most common are bacteria, sugary drinks or foods, certain health conditions, and the lack of brushing or flossing. You may experience symptoms such as pain or sensitivity or have no idea that one is forming until you visit your dentist for a bi-annual cleaning and exam.
A cavity essentially is a damaged section of tooth enamel that shows up as tiny holes or openings. If left untreated, these openings can grow larger and begin to affect the underlayers in your tooth. As a result, you may experience an increasingly painful toothache, swelling, and infection, or even eventual tooth loss.
One of the best-proven ways to keep cavities away is by practicing good oral hygiene. Brushing and flossing daily accompanied by regularly scheduled visits with your Columbus, OH dentist can help keep your dental health at its best. And when you experience any symptom of a cavity forming, your dentist will know how to detect it. Such detection can be confirmed in a few different ways, including the following.
Visual Inspection and Oral Exam
The first step a dentist will take is to visually inspect your teeth, gums, and the soft tissue of your mouth. Your dentist is looking for any discoloration or damage to your tooth’s enamel. In some instances, cavities can be seen right away. Usually, this occurs with larger cavities in prominent areas.
If no evidence of a cavity is identified, or if your dentist suspects a certain tooth or area may be affected, the next method to detect a cavity is by using a dental explorer or probe. This probe is maneuvered around your teeth and specifically into the crevices between teeth. Any soft spots or sensitivity found to indicate a cavity is most likely present. At this point, the severity of the cavity is difficult to determine, so the next steps of detection may be taken.
Many times, a cavity is not detectable by a visual inspection or probing exam alone. The next step a dentist may take is the snapping of dental x-rays. A cavity in an x-ray appears as a darker shadow or spot on a tooth, while a regular filling will be brighter.
Dental x-rays, a method that has been around for years, help to remove any guesswork on the part of the dentist. Images of the inner and outer tooth are captured, and this helps your dentist discover the cavity and determine how severe it is. Dental x-rays are also a good way to determine when a cavity exists between teeth.
Typically, your dentist will obtain bitewing x-rays, where a small x-ray film is inserted between your teeth, and you bite down, holding it in place. An x-ray image is created, producing an image of that particular part of your mouth. These images include your teeth, soft tissues of the mouth, and your jaw, providing your dentist with information on the overall health of your teeth. Hidden structures, such as wisdom teeth and any bone loss, may also be revealed.
For identifying cavities deep in your back molars are other difficult-to-access areas, some dentists may use a Dental Cone Beam CT. The use of this device can provide more thorough x-rays of your jaw, teeth, and overall facial structure, creating a three-dimensional head image for further evaluation.
Laser Cavity Detection
Cavities can start out as microscopic defects under the tooth’s tough enamel. Oral exams and x-rays can’t always diagnose decay on the subsurface level of your tooth. For this, your dentist may turn to the use of a laser cavity detection device.
With this device, lightwave refraction is used. A wand scans the surface of your teeth within seconds. For areas where you have healthy teeth enamel, the light will pass through easily. If decay is present, the light will bounce or reflect back. In turn, the exact location, size, and shape of the cavity can be determined. Your dentist will also see how large and deep the cavity is.
More accurate than x-rays, the laser cavity detection device is completely safe. It can provide a wider, more exact view of the cavity, helping the dentist determine the best treatment options going forward.
Your dentist may only need to use one of these cavity detection methods or a combination of them to obtain the most information possible. From there, together you can discuss whether a filling will suffice or if you need to consider other options such as replacing the damaged tooth with a crown or other measures.
Contact Lifetime Dental Health for all Your Dental Needs
The earlier a cavity is caught, the better. If you are currently suffering from any of the symptoms of a cavity, including toothache or sensitivity, contact our office at 614-321-1887 to schedule an appointment. If you haven’t had your bi-annual cleaning and exam, we can schedule that also. Our compassionate, professional staff look forward to helping with whatever dental needs you may have now or in the future.
If you’re like many adults today, you have your share of cavities, most acquired during childhood. And, like many adults, you probably have some not-so-cherished memories of the drilling, and the stuffing, and the discomfort that can accompany getting a filling. Filling cavities in our teeth is important, but it can’t quite be called fun. And it’s not a sign of healthy teeth, either. Cavities signal tooth decay, but how can you keep that decay away? Call on dental sealants.
Do Dental Sealants Help Prevent Cavities?
Brushing your teeth and flossing daily removes most of the food and bacteria from your teeth. But not all of it. Especially on teeth in the back of your mouth — molars and premolars. These are the teeth that do most of the work, the grinding and chewing, when you eat. And the surface grooves and fissures —which all teeth have — are deeper on these teeth than on others, and harder to reach when you brush, especially for young children.
Dental sealants consist of a thin coating of liquid plastic that’s painted onto the chewing surface of molars and premolars. They serve as an extra barrier to help protect these hard-working teeth from decay. Sealants work much like the commercial packaging we find on perishable foods in a store. They keep food particles, bacteria, and plaque from settling into the hills and valleys of your tooth’s surface in the way that a package, be it a can or a bag, keeps dust and dirt out of the food on your grocer’s shelves.
Dental sealants are permanently bonded to a tooth’s surface. To apply a dental sealant, we first use an acidic solution to roughen the surface of the tooth so that the sealant solution will stick as well as possible. Once the acid is rinsed off, the sealant is carefully painted onto the surface of your tooth. As the sealant is applied, it flows into all the crevices in the tooth, some of which are thinner than a strand of human hair. The final step is hardening the sealant, called polymerizing, accomplished by shining a curing light on the tooth for a few minutes.
Their application takes little time — most often less than 45 minutes — and helps ensure that your tooth will be ready to keep out bacteria and food particles for years to come. And it’s usually painless, a plus for children who fear the dentist or people who have particularly sensitive teeth.
How Well Do Dental Sealants Do Their Job?
Keeping cavities out of teeth in order to avoid the need for a dental filling is one of the main jobs dental sealants are specifically designed to do. Although they are most often used on children’s teeth, sealants can work well for adults, too. The statistics are impressive:
According to the American Dental Association, sealants can not only prevent cavities, but they can also sometimes halt the progression of tooth decay that has not yet created a cavity.
Is The Cost of a Dental Sealant Worth It?
Typically, placing dental sealants will cost from $30 to $60 per tooth, depending on the teeth, your overall oral health, and the number of teeth to be sealed. Most dental insurance plans either don’t cover sealants at all, or offer minimal coverage. Nevertheless, even without dental insurance, sealants are likely to be less costly in the long run than handling tooth decay by putting in a filling.
The initial cost of filling a cavity is significantly more than the cost of a dental sealant. A filling can cost as much as $150 depending on the size of the filling needed and the type of filling desired. And cavities, and the need to fill them, are not uncommon. According to Zentist, a dental insurance website, on average:
42% of children age 2 to 11 have cavities in their primary teeth
59% of adolescents age 12 to 19 have cavities in their permanent teeth
92% of adults have at least one cavity
Even if cost isn’t an issue, time and inconvenience often are. At the least, like getting a dental sealant, filling a cavity means a visit to your dentist. But getting a filling takes longer, can be uncomfortable during the procedure, and may cause pain (from mild to severe) that keeps you from your normal activities for the rest of the day. Sealants can be applied rather quickly, compared to filling a cavity, and they usually cause no pain or discomfort. And, unlike replacing a filling, which requires re-drilling the tooth, if a seal is broken, for whatever reason, the sealant can easily be reapplied.
As with any oral health decision, the real first step to stopping cavities with dental sealants is to talk with your dentist. We at Lifetime Dental Health are here to help, right from the start. To talk to one of our dental professionals or to make your first appointment, contact us. We’ll be happy to help you stop cavities in their tracks, before they reach your pearly-whites.
Many of today’s adults share common memories from childhood. Sunday drives, visits to grandma and grandpa, trips to the local playground or the city zoo, and hearing the iconic phrase – do as I say, not as I do – over and over again. Why? Because children are natural mimics and will do exactly what Mom and Dad do, no matter what it is. Of course, some of the things children mimic are things they shouldn’t do. But there is one daily habit parents can be proud of modeling for their children: Good oral hygiene.
Is Good Oral Hygiene Different for Children?
While many healthful habits are different for children than for adults, taking care of teeth is almost exactly the same: floss and brush daily, avoid certain foods and drinks, see your dentist regularly. Simple, right? Right. And easy to follow. For adults and motivated teenagers.
But for younger children, especially babies and toddlers, it’s a hard act to mimic. Nearly one in every five children between the ages of 5 and 11 has untreated tooth decay. Even baby teeth (now called primary teeth) can get cavities! And if cavities in primary teeth aren’t treated, permanent teeth could be negatively affected. Untreated tooth decay, even in early childhood, can lead to other dental and medical problems in adult life. Of course, all of those primary teeth will disappear eventually, but by the time that starts – when your child is around six years old — the damage from tooth decay will have already happened.
My Child Is Still a Baby. How Soon Should I Start?
Caring for your child’s teeth should start as soon as they come home from the hospital. It’s up to you to teach good oral hygiene habits, and here’s how to start:
Until your baby is about a year old, simply wipe their teeth with a soft, damp washcloth after the morning feeding and right before bedtime. This washes away bacteria and sugars that can cause tooth decay.
Never, ever let your baby fall asleep with a bottle. (As harmless as it may seem, this simple activity often generates tooth decay.) When teeth start coming in, usually around a child’s first birthday, begin using a soft child-size toothbrush and plain water.
When your child reaches toddler age, you can add a small dab of a non-fluoride toothpaste (non-fluoride toothpaste is safe to swallow).
As soon as your child is old enough to spit out the toothpaste, switch to one that has fluoride in order to give your child the extra protection fluoride provides.
You should introduce flossing — and demonstrate it — when your child starts brushing their teeth on the own. (Hint: the floss that comes on a plastic holder is easier for children.)
How Can I Make Good Oral Hygiene Habits Appealing?
Children get bored easily, we know, and caring for their teeth may not be as exciting as other things they could do. But children will understand caring for their teeth if you tell them (as one 5-year-old declared): “Plaque makes your teeth dirty, and you have to wash them.” It’s up to you, as a parent, to help make it interesting enough — even fun! — that they will establish a solid habit. Good oral hygiene habits will serve them well throughout their life. And they will look to Mom and Dad to learn what to do.
One of the most successful ways to instill oral health habits in your children is to make establishing those habits as much fun as the other things they enjoy. You know your children best, so you probably already have an idea of what will work. But just in case you’d like some fresh ideas:
Let your child choose their own toothbrush – their favorite color or a cartoon character they love. Just make sure the one they choose is a good size for their hand and has soft bristles.
If they want to, let them choose their own toothpaste, as well. They may not want the mint you like, but some companies have toothpaste with flavors like strawberry or watermelon.
Set up a system to reward your child for good oral care with something they’ll appreciate, such as staying up a little longer, watching a favorite movie, or being read a special story.
Avoid sugary treats or drinks as rewards, though. (This kind of defeats the purpose.)
Find a song your child likes and record exactly two minutes of it. Then play that two minutes when it’s time to brush. The American Dental Association advocates two minutes of brushing twice a day for both children and adults.
Best of all, let your child see you brushing your teeth correctly…and enjoying it. When children are young, anything Mom and Dad does is something they want to do, too, including brushing their teeth.
What if I Need a Bit of Help?
Come on in, and bring your child! At Lifetime Dental Health, we’ll be happy to discuss how best to handle your child’s at-home dental hygiene. We’ll explain ways to maintain your children’s teeth that are similar to how you take care of your own and explain anything you need to know based on the specific condition of your child’s teeth. In addition to setting the stage for healthy adult teeth, introducing children to dental care as early as possible can go a long way toward eliminating the fear some children experience when their first time in a dental chair includes lots of uncomfortable scraping and the scary sound of a dental drill.
To talk to one of our dental professionals or to make your first appointment, contact us. We’ll be happy to serve you and your little ones.