For most individuals, trips to the dentist serve two main purposes: to have one’s teeth professionally and thoroughly cleaned and polished and to find out whether one has any new cavities that need to be handled. Unfortunately, the information that one is suffering from cavities, especially if it seems to be a regular thing, can be so difficult to receive that many individuals will actually avoid going to the dentist as often as they should in order to avoid hearing about the cavities they have. Needless to say, this does not help to improve their oral health condition.
What if, rather than holding your breath until your dentist reveals whether you have any new cavities, you knew exactly what factors put you at risk of developing cavities and worked with your dentist to resolve these factors and therefore reduce your chances of developing cavities? This is the exact purpose of the caries susceptibility test–to identify the factors that contribute to cavity development and then take preventative measures to resolve these factors and help to prevent the formation of new cavities.
Assessing the Risk of Cavity Development
The World Health Organization has indicated that dental decay is a significant problem that affects both children and adults. The high level of sugar and carbohydrate consumption that occurs in America seems largely to blame, since sugar and carbohydrates are the “food of choice” for the harmful oral bacteria that produces tooth-decaying acids. However, even individuals who adhere to largely or entirely healthy diets and who practice good oral hygiene habits can sometimes still struggle with cavities throughout their lives. By assessing a patient’s risk of cavity development with a caries susceptibility test, dentists can help to design a specific program for the patient to follow in order to prevent the formation of cavities.
Obviously, a caries susceptibility test assesses each individual patient based on their own specific health condition, oral hygiene habits, diet and more. Some methods of assessment that are often used include dental x-rays, laser measurement of tooth fluorescence, nutritional habit evaluation, saliva flow determination and tests that determine the quantity of acid-producing bacteria that exist in the mouth. Your dentist will consider any obvious, visible cavities, as well as cavity restorations within the past few years. He will also consider any white spots on teeth, as this may indicate demineralized enamel. If you have reduced salivary flow, he will want to look into and resolve the causes behind this, since saliva plays an important role in cavity prevention. (Saliva actually fights to destroy the harmful oral bacteria that plays a role in cavity development.) He will also consider whether exposed roots, braces, deep grooves in the teeth or other existing conditions may contribute to a higher risk of cavity development. It is important to let your dentist know about any preventive measures you are taking, such as the use of fluoride toothpaste, antibacterial mouthwash, xylitol gum and others so that he can take this into account as well.
Based on the information gathered from the test, your dentist can determine what cavity prevention program will work best for you. When it comes to preventing cavities, the most important factor is to control the amount of bacteria that exists in the mouth. This can be accomplished by establishing and maintaining a balance in the oral environment, as a good balance will help to suppress the power of harmful oral bacteria. Your dentist may recommend dietary changes where necessary (especially if you currently consume large quantities of sugar or carbohydrates), oral hygiene habit changes where mandatory (including not only when to brush and floss your teeth but also how to brush and floss your teeth and with what tools), general health improvements where needed (since general health and oral health are deeply interconnected) and more.
For more information about the caries susceptibility test and how it may serve to improve your oral health and reduce your risk of cavities, contact Today’s Dental now!