What is Tooth Decay?

Online Dental Education Library

Our team of dental specialists and staff strive to improve the overall health of our patients by focusing on preventing, diagnosing and treating conditions associated with your teeth and gums. Please use our dental library to learn more about dental problems and treatments available. If you have questions or need to schedule an appointment, contact us.

Emergencies
Even though you are careful, you may occasionally damage your appliances. Wires and brackets can become loose or break. Typically, this is not an emergency situation. If the patient is not in discomfort, you can call the office and make an appointment to come in when it is convenient. If the patient is in pain, please call for an immediate emergency appointment.

We want our patients to be informed of problems that may occur and understand how to solve them, at least temporarily, until it is possible to return to our office.

Loose Bracket
If a bracket comes loose from the tooth, call our office so we can determine if an emergency appointment is indicated. If the patient is comfortable and if it will not cause any problems or delay in treatment, additional time can be allowed to reattach the bracket at the next regularly scheduled appointment. If it is causing discomfort, we will schedule an immediate emergency appointment. If the loose bracket is still attached to a wire, leave it in place and apply wax to keep it from moving on the wire if it is bothersome. If the bracket comes completely out, place it in an envelope and bring it to your next appointment.

Broken Archwire
If a main archwire breaks (the one that goes all the way around the outside of your braces), you should leave it in if it is not uncomfortable and seems stable. If it is bothering you, you can do whatever it takes to make it more comfortable until you can visit the office to have the wire replaced. You can try such things as removing the offending piece, clipping an irritating piece with a small wire cutter or nail clipper, tucking the wire under a bracket, etc. Use wax as needed and call our office for an appointment.

Loose Wire
Try to place the wire back in the bracket. Place wax if there is any discomfort and call for an appointment.

Poking Wire
Sometimes a poking wire can be safely turned down so that it no longer causes you discomfort. Try to tuck the wire back in and out of the way with the blunt end of a toothbrush, pencil eraser or some other smooth object. If you are unable to take care of a poking wire, apply wax and call our office for an appointment.

Soreness
Periodic soreness of the teeth or surrounding tissues during treatment is to be expected. If you experience this normal discomfort, it can usually be relieved by rinsing your mouth with a warm salt water solution (one teaspoonful of salt in a cup of warm water). A mild over-the-counter pain reliever (Motrin, Tylenol, etc.) can be taken as directed.

Lost or Broken Retainers
Contact our office as soon as possible to arrange for repair or replacement of the retainer. If the retainer is cracked or has a broken wire but still fits comfortably, you should continue to wear it until you can bring it in for repair or replacement. If, for example, you break or lose your upper retainer, make sure you continue to wear your lower retainer (or vice versa), as this will help reduce the shifting potential of the teeth until you can be seen in our office.

Accidents Involving Teeth
For serious mouth injuries, the patient should initially be seen as soon as possible at the emergency room or by his/her family dentist. Once the initial trauma has been resolved, contact our office for an emergency appointment so we can repair any damage to the appliances and evaluate the affected teeth.

Please Remember
If you are involved with contact sports, we recommend you use a mouthguard. Use only an orthodontic mouthguard (not one you boil and adapt). We will be happy to supply you with one and they are also available wherever mouthguards are sold.

Our office is generally open Monday through Thursday. We can usually get you in to repair a problem quickly. In some instances, we will make you comfortable and then schedule another appointment at a later date if more involved treatment is necessary to remedy the problem. In case of an after-hours emergency, call our office and follow the instructions on the answering machine.

 

Plaque is an insidious substance—a colorless, sticky film—that blankets your teeth and creates an environment in which bacteria erode tooth enamel, cause gum irritation, infection in inner structures such as pulp and the roots, and in extreme cases, tooth loss.

Some of the biggest culprits causing plaque are foods rich in sugar and carbohydrates, including soda beverages, some juices, candy and many kinds of pasta, breads and cereals.

Plaque also can attack fillings and other restorations in your mouth, which can lead to more costly treatment down the road.

Plaque is the main cause of tooth decay.  It can also cause your gums to become irritated, inflamed, and bleed. Over time, the plaque underneath your gums may cause periodontal disease, which can lead to bone loss and eventual tooth loss.

Inside your teeth, decay can gradually destroy the inner layer, or dentin.  It can also destroy the pulp, which contains blood vessels, nerves and other tissues, as well as the root. 

Periodontal disease is advanced gum disease. This serious condition occurs when the structures that support your teeth—the gums and bone—break down from the infection.  Pain, hypersensitivity and bleeding are some of the signs of periodontal disease.

Simple Preventative Measures

The two best defenses against tooth decay and gum disease are a healthy, well-balanced diet and good oral hygiene, including daily brushing with fluoride toothpaste, flossing and rinsing. Most public drinking water contains fluoride, but if you are unsure of your water supply, then use a good quality mouth rinse containing fluoride.

A good way to help your oral health between brushing is chewing sugarless gum; this stimulates your body's production of saliva, a powerful chemical that actually neutralizes plaque formation and rinses decay-causing food particles and debris from your mouth.

In some cases, our office can prescribe anti-cavity rinses or apply special anti-cavity varnishes or sealants to help fight decay.