Advancements in medicine have made it possible to fight the effects of aging on our bodies. We can smooth out wrinkles and fine lines and better manage health conditions, which leads to increasing life spans. However, there is one problem that we encounter with age that affects our oral health, tooth root decay. That’s because the longer we keep our teeth, the greater risk we have for developing this disease which affects many people over the age of 50.
Root decay is more difficult for a dentist to treat than the cavities you had as a child, especially if it travels below the gum line. Root fillings are a traditional treatment. The problem is that the tooth filling material often fails to adhere to the porous roots of a tooth. This leads to a short life span for the restoration and can leave you with many dental visits to treat the problem.
If there is a great deal of damage or decay found between your teeth, your dentist may recommend a dental crown. An even worse, yet common scenario, would involve extraction of the tooth followed by a dental bridge or dental implant to replace the lost tooth. If the tooth root decay has spread or affected the pulp, a root canal may be necessary.
Dental crowns are a common dental treatment and are very effective for restoring the shape, size and strength of a tooth, as well as improve appearance. They are made from a variety of materials including metal, which can be gold, chromium, or nickel; all ceramic; all porcelain; resin, which is durable plastic; or porcelain fused to metal.
This treatment typically involves two trips to the dentist. On the first visit, your dentist will examine the extent of decay by taking an x-ray. If a root canal is necessary, this is performed before placing the dental crown. If not necessary, your dentist will prepare the tooth and surrounding teeth, take an impression, then place a temporary crown to cover the prepared tooth while the permanent is made.
At your second visit, the temporary crown is removed and the dentist will cement your permanent dental crown in place after assessing its fit and color.
A root canal involves the removal of the pulp and nerves within the root. Initially, you will be given a shot of local anesthesia, which is typically the most painful part of the process. Once the area becomes numb, your dentist will drill through the crown of your tooth and remove the pulp and nerves. This area is then cleansed and the canal is filled to prevent future infections. Lastly, your dentist will then cap the tooth for protection.
Bridges are made to span the space where your teeth are missing. Before a bridge can be made, your tooth or teeth need to be reduced in size to allow proper fit of the bridge. When completed, an impression will be taken that is an exact mold for the bridge. A temporary bridge will be placed to cover the prepared areas while you wait for the permanent bridge. When the permanent bridge is ready, the temporary is removed and the new bridge is cemented over your prepared tooth or teeth. Bridges are cemented to your natural teeth or implants surrounding the empty space. These teeth that serve as anchors are called abutments. A pontic is the replacement tooth which is attached to the crowns that cover the abutments.
Placing an implant is a multi-step process requiring oral surgery. At the first visit, while you are appropriately anesthetized, a hole will be drilled into your jawbone and an implant will be screwed into place. The gum is then secured over the implant, which will remain covered while the implant has time to fuse to the bone. This typically takes three to six months.
At the second visit, the implant is uncovered and a post is added, which serves as an extension. After allowing the gum tissue to heal around the post, you return for a third visit and a dental crown is placed. The dental crown is fixed to the post, making it secure and able to function as your original tooth.
If your nearing the age where tooth root decay is of concern, prevention is your best medicine. Be sure to schedule regular dental visits for proper cleaning and monitoring for decay. Between dental visits daily oral care is necessary to maintain your oral health. This includes brushing twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and cleaning between your teeth with floss or interdental cleaner. A diet that is nutritious and well-balanced is also necessary to provide your body with the appropriate nutrients it needs to stay healthy.