Tooth Decay Prevention
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.
Air abrasion - is a drill-less technique that is being used by some dentists to remove tooth decay and for other applications
Amalgam - Material made from mercury and other alloy mixtures used to restore a drilled portion of a tooth.
Anesthesia - Medications used to relieve pain.
Anterior teeth - Front teeth. Also called incisors and cuspids.
Arch - The upper or lower jaw.
Baby bottle tooth decay - Caused by sugary substances in breast milk and some juices, which combine with saliva to form pools inside the baby's mouth.
Bicuspids -Back teeth used for chewing.
Bitewings - X-rays that help a dentist diagnose cavities.
Bonding - Application of tooth-colored resin materials to the surface of the teeth.
Bridge - A fixed or removable appliance that replaces lost teeth.
Bruxism - Teeth grinding.
CAD/CAM dentistry, (Computer-Aided Design and Computer-Aided Manufacturing in dentistry), is an area of dentistry utilizing CAD/CAM technologies to produce different types of dental restorations, including crowns, crownlays, veneers, inlays and onlays, fixed bridges, dental implant restorations and orthodontic appliances.
Calculus (tartar)- Calculus is hardened plaque (a sticky substance) that has been left on the tooth for some time and is now firmly attached to the tooth surface. Calculus forms above and below the gum line and can only be removed with special dental instruments.
Canal - The narrow chamber inside the tooth's root.
Canines - Also called cuspids.
Canker sore - One that occurs on the delicate tissues inside your mouth. A canker sore is usually light-colored at its base and can have a red exterior border.
Caries - Another term for decay, which causes cavities.
Cold sore - Usually occurs on the outside of the mouth, usually on or near the nose or lips. A cold sore is contagious because it is caused by the herpes simplex virus, and it is usually painful and filled with fluid.
Composite filling - Tooth colored restorations, also known as resin fillings.
Composite resin - A tooth colored resin combined with silica or porcelain and used as a restoration material.
Contouring - The process of reshaping teeth.
Crown - An artificial cover that is placed on the top of a tooth following restoration.
Cusps - The pointed parts on top of the back teeth's chewing surface.
Cuspids - Front teeth that typically have a protruding edge.
Dentin - The tooth layer underneath the enamel.
Denture - A removable set of teeth.
Endodontics - A form of dentistry that addresses problems affecting the tooth's root or nerve.
Fluoride - A naturally occurring substance added to water, toothpastes and some rinses and used for strengthening the tooth's enamel.
Fluorosis - A harmless over-exposure to fluoride and resulting sometimes in tooth discoloration.
Gingiva - Another word for gum tissue.
Gingivitis - A minor disease of the gums caused by plaque.
Gum disease - An infection of the gum tissues. Also called periodontal disease.
Impacted teeth - A condition in which a tooth fails to erupt or only partially erupts.
Implant - A permanent appliance used to replace a missing tooth.
Incisor - Front teeth with cutting edges; located in the center or on the sides near the front.
Inlay - An indirect artificial filling made of various materials, including porcelain, resin, or gold. fitted to a cavity in a tooth and cemented into place.
Intracoronal - situated or made within the crown of a tooth
Laminate veneer - A shell that is bonded to the enamel of a front tooth. The shell is usually thin and made from porcelain resin.
Malocclusion - Bad bite relationship
Mandible - The lower jaw
Maxilla - The upper jaw
Molar - Usually the largest teeth, near the rear of the mouth. Molars have large chewing surfaces
Nightguard - Night mouth guards are bite pads that are worn at night as you sleep. There are also used as mouth guards for day use. These guards are made of high-grade plastic and are custom fit to the mouth. This device keeps the upper teeth from grinding with the lower teeth, offering an instant solution to teeth clenching problems.
Neuromuscular Dentistry - Are more than the aches and pains felt in and around the neck and head that are associated with your teeth and jaw.
Onlay - An indirect artificial filling made of various materials, including porcelain, resin, or gold; fitted to a cavity in a tooth and cemented into place. It is designed to protect the chewing surface of a tooth by extending to replace a cusp.
Orthodontics - A field of dentistry that deals with tooth and jaw alignment.
Overdenture - A non-fixed dental appliance applied to a small number of natural teeth or implants.
Palate - Roof of the mouth.
Partial denture - A removable appliance that replaces teeth. Also called a bridge.
Pedodontics - A field of dentistry that deals with children's teeth.
Perio pocket - An opening formed by receding gums.
Periodontal disease - Infection of the gum tissues. Also called gum disease.
Periodontist - A dentist who treats diseases of the gums.
Permanent teeth - The teeth that erupt after primary teeth. Also called adult teeth.
Plaque -Plaque is a sticky, colorless, almost invisible film or substance that forms on the teeth after sleep or periods between brushing. It is a growing colony of living bacteria, food debris, and saliva.
Posterior teeth - The bicuspids and molars. Also called the back teeth.
Primary teeth - A person's first set of teeth. Also called baby teeth or temporary teeth.
Prophylaxis - The act of cleaning the teeth.
Prosthodontics - The field of dentistry that deals with artificial dental appliances.
Pulp - The inner tissues of the tooth containing blood, nerves and connective tissue.
Radiographs - Diagnostic X-rays essential for detection of decay, tumors, cysts, and bone loss. X-rays also help determine tooth and root positions.
Receding gum - A condition in which the gums separate from the tooth, allowing bacteria and other substances to attack the tooth's enamel and surrounding bone.
Resin filling - An artificial filling used to restore teeth. Also called a composite filling.
Root canal - A procedure in which a tooth's nerve is removed and an inner canal cleansed and later filled.
Root planing - Scraping or cleansing of teeth to remove heavy buildup of tartar below the gum line.
Sealant - A synthetic material placed on the tooth's surface that protects the enamel and chewing surfaces.
Tartar - A hardened substance (also called calculus) that sticks to the tooth's surface.
Tooth decay – Tooth decay occurs when the acids found in plaque erode the natural enamel found on the teeth. This phenomenon can easily be prevented by using proper home hygiene methods. Tooth decay is one of the leading causes of tooth loss, and its treatment often requires complex dental procedures.Teeth polishing: Removal of stain and plaque that is not otherwise removed during tooth brushing and scaling.
TMD - Temporomandibular joint disorder. Health problems related to the jaw joint just in front of the ear.
Veneer - A laminate applied or bonded to the tooth.
Whitening - A process that employs special bleaching agents for restoring the color of teeth.
Wisdom tooth - Third set of molars that erupt last in adolescence.
Tooth decay is often called the second most prevalent human disease, after the common cold. Without effective treatment (as was the case through most of history) it can lead to pain, tooth loss, and sometimes worse illnesses. Even today, it's estimated to affect over a quarter of U.S children from ages two to five, and half of those aged 12-15. But it doesn't necessarily have to! You can take steps to prevent tooth decay from harming your teeth — or those of your loved ones.
There's one important fact you should understand up front: No single “magic bullet” can stop tooth decay in every case. Instead, fighting decay should be viewed as a process of preventive maintenance, like taking care of your car — except that (unlike a car) your natural teeth, with proper care, can last a whole lifetime. The basic aspects of this process are practicing good oral hygiene at home, and coming in to the dental office for regular cleanings and checkups.
If you've been in the dental office for routine visits, you're probably already familiar with the special tools dentists use to remove buildups of plaque (a bacterial biofilm) and tartar (a hardened deposit, also called calculus) from your teeth. Hand-held instruments, ultrasonic scalers, or both may be used to give your teeth a thorough cleaning. Afterwards, your teeth are thoroughly checked for decay, and cavities are treated when necessary.
Yet there's still more that can be done to prevent tooth decay. Could your diet be a contributing factor? Is your brushing technique adequate? Could you benefit from additional preventive treatments? Today, with our increased understanding of what causes tooth decay and how to treat it, it is possible to focus on what decay prevention tactics would work best in your particular case. In fact, it's now possible to assess each individual's risk factors for decay, and concentrate on doing what's most effective for you.
How Does Decay Start?
It's useful to think of the mouth as a dynamically balanced ecosystem, in which living organisms, including helpful and harmful bacteria, are constantly interacting. When conditions are right — namely, in the presence of certain sugars — some pathogenic (harmful) bacteria produce acids that cause teeth to lose minerals and begin breaking down. Even a diet having excessive acidic foods can influence deminerialization of your teeth. But in more favorable conditions, the damage these pathogens do is undone by the body's own healing mechanisms — which includes your healthy saliva.
A major goal in decay prevention is to tip the balance in favor of the beneficial processes. Keeping up a regular habit of brushing and flossing, getting adequate fluoride, and a diet with limited acidic foods is certainly helpful. Yet even with these measures, some individuals will be more prone to tooth decay than others, and may need extra help and guidance.
Additional Steps to Prevent Tooth Decay
If you're one of these individuals, it may help you to learn effective brushing techniques and practice other measures at home — for example, using special toothpastes or mouthrinses. When necessary, in-office treatments such as topical fluoride applications are available. If you aren't getting enough fluoride through drinking water or other sources, this treatment can help prevent tooth decay. Anti-bacterial treatments may also be beneficial in some cases, as is nutritional counseling.
Finally, if your child's teeth are susceptible to tooth decay, consider having a dental sealant applied. This is a practically invisible layer of plastic resin that is placed on the top (chewing) surfaces of the back teeth. It's a painless procedure that fills in the natural pits and folds of the tooth, making them much more resistant to bacterial damage.
So, don't think that tooth decay is inevitable — instead, find out what you can do to help prevent this disease from affecting you or your loved ones.
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