Tooth decay… Are We Just Fixing Cavities Or Are We Treating The Disease That Causes Them?

Dentistry has come a long way in the last few years. We are experiencing a significant paradigm shift in how we think about prevention. Traditionally, cavities were fixed and the patient was told to brush better, floss more and cut down on candy. Now, however, we know that it's not sugar and sweets that cause cavities. Instead we realize that cavities are simply the end result of a bacterial infection in the mouth called "caries".

Dental Caries Are Caused By…


Parents or primary caregivers can infect their children.

Prolonged Acidic Oral Environment:

Associated with a sugary/acidic diet or frequent nursing/bottle feeding or snacking.

Lack Of Good Hygiene:

Keeping the oral environment clean is important even prior to the first tooth erupting, however, brushing and flossing alone will not stop the infection.

Drilling and filling has been the traditional method of treating cavities, but it doesn’t treat the infection, just the symptoms. Brushing and flossing has been the traditional method of prevention, but it does not treat the bacterial infection once it exists or change the pH (acidity) of the oral environment.

Research has found that by the second birthday, it is much more difficult to modify the bacteria in the child's mouth. If the dentist can succeed in establishing a healthy non acid-producing set of bacteria in the patient's mouth prior to the second birthday, the child has the greatest chance of having a lifetime of no cavities. The American Dental Association, American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry all recommend that children establish a dental home by 12 months of age to allow the dentist to perform a risk assessment and assist the family in establishing a healthy mouth for the child early in life. We perform a “caries risk assessment” for all new patients where we evaluate the reasons that contribute to the child getting cavities, and offer individualized treatment of the infection beyond drilling and filling.

At Our Office, We Utilize…

  • A caries screening device which measures bacteria activity level (a screening indicator for cavity risk.)
  • Digital X-rays to significantly reduce radiation exposure and increase the ability to diagnose suspicious areas early so they can be treated more conservatively.
  • Computer aided diagnostic devices to allow the dentist to treat caries earlier and often without needing to drill and fill teeth.
  • Modern materials including antibacterial mouth rinses to modify the oral bacteria of patients at risk; prescription toothpaste to help heal weakened teeth before cavities need to be filled; xylitol to aid in establishing a more benign set of bacteria in the mouth.
  • The ICON resin infiltration system to microscopically fill small decayed areas without the need to numb and drill the tooth.

New techniques of prevention and minimally invasive dentistry are putting more happy smiles on the faces of today's children. Parents should make sure they are taking advantage of all the benefits that modern dental research has provided.

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