Do you have cavities? You shouldn’t wait until your teeth or gums ache before visiting your dentist. Besides brushing and flossing your teeth twice every day, the American Dental Association (ADA) also recommends attending regular dental exams and cleanings at least once every six months. Ideally, good hygiene allows patients to prevent the formation of destructive dental diseases, like tooth decay and the cavities that result from it. In reality, however, effectively preserving your natural smile may entail detecting tooth decay early and treating it before it has the chance to ravish your teeth. During your visit to your dentist, the hygienists will clean your teeth, and the dentist will closely inspect your mouth for warning signs of potentially damaging cavities.

How decay starts

Dental plaque, the sticky, colorless film that accumulates on your teeth, is comprised of over 600 identifiable kinds of bacteria, most of which thrive in the absence of oxygen. To survive, the microbes consume and metabolize the nutrients found in your meals. For some bacteria, the result of metabolizing sugar and carbohydrates is organic acid, which depletes teeth of minerals and weakens their protective shield, called enamel. Poor hygiene or excessive sugar consumption can lead to acid erosion, the process by which bacterial acid eats away enamel until it develops holes and can no longer repair itself. As bacteria slip past enamel and infect the tooth’s main structure (dentin), a cavity forms and will continue to grow larger until treated, or until it completely destroys the tooth.

Cavity Prevention and Treatment

As Dr. Fondriest carefully examines your teeth, he may spot signs of weakened enamel that can indicate an increased risk of cavity development.  Improving your hygiene routine and treating weakened enamel with fluoride, a mineral that bonds to and strengthens enamel, can reduce the chances of tooth decay and cavities. If enamel is already compromised and your tooth is already infected, then Dr. Fondriest can remove the infected structure and replace it with a tooth-colored dental filling. Patients who neglect regular exams and cleanings may experience severe tooth decay involving infected nerves and blood vessels. A root canal procedure can save a severely infected tooth by removing the necrotic (dead) tissues and thoroughly cleaning the tooth’s inner chamber and roots. After sealing the roots and pulp to prevent further infection, Dr. Fondriest will recommend placing a dental crown over the tooth to protect it. If left untreated, tooth decay can lead to pockets of infection called abscesses that damage the jawbone around the tooth, leading to severe discomfort and the possible need for a tooth extraction.

Fixing extremely large cavities

The roots of your teeth extend below the gum line and into your jawbone, and are connected to the nerves and blood vessels within the tooth’s inner chamber, or pulp. If an internal tooth infection reaches the pulp and destroys the tooth’s tissues, the infection can potentially spread through the roots and to the jawbone and gum tissue surrounding the tooth. With severe cavities, a tooth may be lost, or require extraction to prevent the spread of infection and preserve your oral health. If disease renders your tooth useless, Dr. Fondriest may recommend replacing it with a dental implant and crown. A dental implant is a prosthetic tooth root made from biocompatible titanium. The implant is surgically inserted into the jawbone in place of the lost tooth’s root, and the jawbone fuses to the implant as it heals. After 4-6 months, Dr. Fondriest can attach a lifelike porcelain dental crown on top of the implant to complete your tooth replacement.

Learn how we fight cavities

Aside from providing expert general and cosmetic dentistry services to our community, Dr. James Fondriest also holds highly-respected academic appointments at the Pankey Institute in Key Biscayne, FL, and the Spear Institute in Scottsdale, AZ, and he is a former Adjunct Associate Professor in the Department of Prosthodontics at the University of Florida Dental School. At Lake Forest Dental Arts, Dr. Fondriest combines his impressive array of experience with modern technology and caring, compassionate, and knowledgeable staff, and we proudly serve patients from Lake Forest and all surrounding communities. To schedule your consultation, call our office today at (847) 234-0517.