Monday, 22 June 2015

Preventing and Treating Tooth Decay

The best way to treat tooth decay is to prevent it in the first place. While conventional and holistic dentists share the idea that prevention is the best policy, they treat tooth decay differently.

A Conventional Approach

To prevent tooth decay, conventional dentists recommend increasing the quality of home care by brushing and flossing after every meal, eliminating sugary snacks and replacing them with healthy foods. Conventional dentists recommend a fluoride toothpaste and rinse.  Sealing the pits and grooves on the chewing surfaces of teeth with dental sealants can prevent the formation of decay in those areas and is often recommended.

Once decay starts, it is best to remove the decayed tooth structure and fill the resulting hole in the tooth with a filling. Conventional dentists argue that dental decay is caused by dental plaque, and once the filling is placed the only thing that a patient can do to prevent further decay is to regularly clean the plaque off the teeth in a more effective manner.  A few conventional dentists will also take the time to discuss diet modification and recommend consuming less sugary foods and drinks.

In summary, the conventional approach offers the following suggestions:

  • Practice better homecare
  • Use fluoride
  • Eat less sugar
  • Use sealants
  • Repair the decay with fillings

Tooth Decay, A Holistic Approach

Holistic dentists agree with the conventional approach to treatment and prevention of tooth decay with the exception of fluoride use.  Fluoride is toxic at high levels of exposure.  Holistic dentists are concerned that lower levels of fluoride may also be a health hazard. They are more likely to recommend using xylitol in place of fluoride to prevent tooth decay.  Xylitol is a sweetener that appears to decrease the ability of bacteria to cause decay. 

Holistic dentists will also evaluate the pH of the saliva. The more acidic the saliva, the more likely it is that tooth decay will occur.  This is discussed in another blog on salivary pH.

There are new, more conservative approaches to treatment of early, minimal decay in a tooth.  By using a special laser called a diagnodent, decay can be diagnosed very early.  Studies have shown that exposing these areas of early decay to ozone can virtually disinfect the decay and stop it from growing larger, thus potentially eliminating the need for a filling.

In summary, the holistic approach offers the following suggestions:

  • Practice better homecare
  • Use xylitol
  • Eat less sugar
  • Use sealants
  • Repair the decay:
    • ozone therapy
    • replace a filling
  • Evaluate the pH of the saliva

A New and Exciting Development

A new product called Icon can help eliminate tooth decay without drilling on the tooth or placing a filling.  It can also eliminate stains on tooth enamel without placing veneers or bonding.  It changes the consistency of the enamel of the tooth and seals it allowing the discolored area of the tooth to assume the color of the surrounding healthy tooth structure.  This may prevent fillings to repair early decay and repair and seal the enamel long term.

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