Our mouths become more prone to dental diseases as we age. Sometimes these diseases can go unnoticed, in turn, they can get worse over time. This is very common with root decay. Decay on the crown of a tooth (visible portion of tooth) occurs when bacteria that feeds on leftover sugar in our mouths produces acid. This high level of acid erodes a tooth’s protective enamel layer, in turn, we develop cavities and when left untreated they can cause a “deeper infection within a tooth that could reach the bone via the root canals.”1
Not only can decay attack the crown of a tooth, but it can also attack the root (below the gum line). To understand root decay, one must first understand the anatomy of a tooth root. Roots are made of dentin and covered by a thin layer of cementum (thin layer of mineralized tooth structure). Cementum is much softer and thinner than enamel and is often lost due to this, exposing the root’s dentin. Once the dentin is exposed, the tooth is more prone to decay than the enamel covered crown of the tooth. Typically, a root has gums to protect it from bacterial infection, but as we age our gyms recede and without that added gum protection, the root is more susceptible to root decay. Once the root has decay, the infection can quickly spread to the interior of the tooth.1
There are many things you can do to prevent root decay, as well as, treat it. To prevent root decay (or tooth decay in general) it is important to brush twice a day and floss at least one time a day. You can also limit your sugar and acid intake. However, if you find yourself with root decay, it is important to have the decayed material removed and fill the root cavity to prevent the spread of infection. Dentists can also apply a fluoride varnish to strengthen the teeth and provide the extra protection against cavities. Some dentists may prescribe a fluoride rinse for the patient to use at home. It is important to treat the gum disease which causes the recession as well.
Sometimes the tooth (or teeth) are so badly decaying that your dentist may suggest a dental implant rather than trying to reverse the decay. Many people get a root canal, only to end up in the same position later on. They don’t change their habits and find their teeth beyond repair. Although it is preferable to keep your natural teeth, dental implants can provide the same appearance and performance and can never get dental decay or cavities. Better yet, when taken care of, dental implants can last a lifetime and improve your appearance and ability to eat foods you may have not been able to eat in the past, making them a wonderful solution to detrimental root decay.2
If you are interested in dental implant surgery, please call 888.257.4025 to set up a consultation with Dr. Young. He has several office locations he works out of throughout Southeast Michigan.
1. Holly Scott-Hetchler DDS. Root Decay in Your Later Years Could Endanger Your Teeth. 19 January, 2018. Available on June 24, 2020. Website: https://www.hollydds.com/blog/post/root-decay-in-your-later-years-could-endanger-your-teeth.html
2. ACP: American college of Prosthodontists. Available on June 24, 2020. Website: https://www.gotoapro.org/dental-implants-faq/