In this blog entry Dr Darryl Marsh writes…
There is now available a series of tests which can identify your child’s risk of getting tooth cavities at an early age. This is done by checking:
- The levels of bacteria in the plaque
- The levels of bacteria in the saliva
- How well you child’s saliva helps protect their teeth (i.e. the flow rate, buffering capacity and acid level of the saliva).
Dentists have known for some time that dental decay is caused by bacteria in the mouth, but decay is also greatly affected by carbohydrates (sugars) in the diet and the protective effect of saliva.
Recent research has produced simple and quick tests to determine:
- The presence of decay causing bacteria in the fine grooves and other areas on the teeth ‘hidden’ from dental x-rays
- The levels of decay causing bacteria in the saliva
- How effective a patient’s saliva is at protecting their teeth
- Assessment of ‘hidden’ sugars in the diet, especially from common medications such as cough medicine, pain and fever medications, asthma treatments and antibiotics.
These tests, combined with a thorough examination of the teeth as well as x-rays, then allow the dentist to determine an effective and simple plan to prevent decay for each individual patient. The testing procedure involves taking samples of the saliva flow analysis as well as a thorough history of medications taken and eating patterns.
This would commonly take fifteen to twenty minutes. Some test results are available immediately, and results take up to forty-eight hours. For patients whose decay risk is high, further testing is required. The cost for this testing procedure would commonly be $20 to $65 depending on the testing required.
Preventing cavities is the key
If the child has a moderate to high risk of decay, or if weakened enamel areas of ‘early decay’ spots are detected, steps can be taken to prevent cavities forming.
The preventative measures involved are a combination of treatments performed by the dentist, including:
- Removing the bacterial plaque on the teeth, placing anti-plaque varnishes;
- Concentrated fluoride treatment to heal any early damage to the enamel;
- Cleaning of the fine grooves (fissures) on the chewing surfaces of the back teeth and sealing these fissures with an epoxy adhesive filling material. This prevents decay occurring in these impossible to clean areas;
- Advising you on any ‘hidden’ sugars in the diet and how you can prevent any damage to the teeth from there;
- Advising what products you can use at home to strengthen the teeth between dental visits (please note some of theses are only available from your dentist).