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Can we cure cavities?

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Can we cure cavities?  With current research, we have the potential.  Before going into how, let’s go over why it’s important to cure cavities.

Worldwide:  60-90% of school aged children and nearly 100% of adults have dental cavities. (World Health Organization, April 2012)

From our dental team’s perspective: 

·         We all have kids that we’d like to see have less potential for cavities.

·         We like to see our work last a lot longer.

·         At the end of our careers, we can look back to see we were a part of solution.

Benefits to our patients:

·         There are many patients that are discouraged to seek dental care because they always previously got dental cavities.  Imagine if we can brighten that outlook.

·         Most patient’s dental fear comes from multiple visits to treat dental cavities.  Imagine if most visits are for cleanings and cancer screenings.  Sounds refreshing!

So let’s begin our journey.  We are all born without cavity causing bacteria.

At this point, no matter how much sugar is consumed, there is no cavity risk.  Interesting?  You can only get this bacteria from someone else infected with cavity causing bacteria: usually the saliva of a parent or a significant other.  Once you get it, your mouth allows for this bacteria to thrive.  Bacteria that causes cavities consumes sugar and converts it to acid.  The more they feed, they increase the acidity and lower the pH in the mouth.  Once the acid strength is strong enough, calcium is removed from your teeth.  It takes 20 minutes from the time you give this bacteria sugar to the time acid is produced.   

You often hear from your dental team to brush often.  It’s to deny cavity causing bacteria its meal.  Without sugar, the bacteria cannot make acid.  Also, if you are drinking and snacking for an extended amount of time (having that coffee with cream over several hours), the bacteria is feeding and make acid for the same amount of time.  Sticky sugary foods stay in the mouth longer also.  There are many moments of our day that may not seem convenient to brush.


This is why it’s hard to prevent cavities.  My dental team and I try our best to brush after meals, but it’s not always convenient. 


 


So how about the cure?  New research in cavity prevention has been concentrating more on the acidity of saliva.  Here are some findings:

Saliva of patients who has never had a cavity:  less acidic and contains lots of good neutral (nonacidic) bacteria. 

The neutral bacteria is the key to preventing cavities and is absent in a patient who has cavities.  Acidic bacteria once introduced to a person thrives in the mouth and pushes out the neutral bacteria.  They continue to produce acid with each meal; your saliva will be less and less neutral.  When the acid level in the mouth hits the critical point of pH 5.5, your teeth enamel starts to dissolve.  Depends on your meals and drinks, this destruction of tooth enamel may continue for hours.  Your saliva also has protective minerals that can help repair the damage, but it’s not possible during the times the saliva’s pH is below 5.5. 

The treatment that has been recently developed is a product called Carifree




Treatment phase:  Generally 3-6 months to bring the pH of affected saliva to neutral again and promote the good bacteria to return after treatment.  Consists of a rinse and brushing in the morning, and the same at night.

Maintenance phase:  ongoing to keep the saliva optimal so that acidic bacteria from taking over again.  Consists of a rinse and brushing two times a day, just like the treatment phase.

So is the cure possible?  This is our closest step to a cure.  The main point here is keeping the main culprit (acidic bacteria) from taking over the balance of a healthy ecosystem in the mouth.  I encourage you to read this book:  Balance written by Dr. V. Kim Kutsch for more detailed information regarding current dental cavity research.  It’s an easy read, and not too scientific.  Please stop by our office for a free copy of this book.

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