Progression of Dental Infections
Left unchecked a dental infection, like other infections in the body, spreads until the body’s defense mechanisms slow down or stop it. These include the body’s white blood cells, the inflammation process, and other factors. These infections may eventually be totally stopped by the body’s defenses, but not until more damage has been done, often times leaving permanent injury and lessening of function to the area involved.
Dental infections can be quite aggressive, and if not treated for sometime, may invade other areas of the mouth or of the body, even the organs, particularly the heart, causing very serious illnesses, and in extreme situations, even death.
As in dealing with medical problems, the scope of dealing with dental problems focuses on treating the problem at its earliest stage with the simplest, least invasive, and least expensive regimen.
In dentistry when a person goes to his/her dentist a couple of times or more per year for preventive professional teeth and gum cleaning, an examination is performed and X-rays are taken, which can show very early changes in the health of the teeth, gums, bite, and the mucosal covering of the mouth and tongue. Often a little free nutritional, hygiene, bite, and/or fluoride counseling is all that is needed to stop the changes at this earliest stage.
For teeth at the next level, sealants can be placed in the pits in the chewing surfaces of the back teeth, which dramatically slows decay (cavities) in the chewing surfaces of these teeth.
Cavities are not usually sensitive until they get really large. So waiting until you feel something does not work. If untreated, these cavities grow unchecked, because the body’s defenses do not fight cavities as they do infections.
The outside enamel of a tooth is very hard and virtually impervious to cavities. Decay can only penetrate into the softer dentin inside the tooth through a crack or opening in the enamel. The cavity, once inside, can grow very fast and eat out the inside of the tooth, usually leaving the top (chewing surface) of the tooth intact and looking normal in a mirror. Therefore, with the teeth covered in saliva in a dark mouth, this decay usually goes undetected by you until either it is diagnosed in your dentist’s office or by your feeling sensitivity. If a small cavity is found in a tooth, it can be easily repaired with a little resin filling, not too big a deal.
But after the inside of the tooth is finally hollow from the cavity’s destructive process, then the unsupported top of the tooth caves in, and it becomes evident to the you that you have a real problem. Sensitivity and/or pain on chewing may have started a little before this event or at the same time.
Now to solve this problem requires the removal of the cavity (decay) and a build-up filling to fill in the hole in the tooth before an expensive crown is fabricated, which is required to restore all the lost tooth enamel and strengthen the tooth.
If pain has been present, this treatment with a build-up and a crown will not stop the pain. On top of the build-up and crown the now infected, inflamed, and painful nerve tissue down inside the roots of the tooth must be removed with an also not inexpensive root canal. Therefore, the problems and the costs continue to mount.
If the tooth has lost too much structure and has to be removed, replacement of the tooth is imperative to prevent the loss of other teeth, as they now get weakened because they have to carry the load of chewing of the lost tooth. You do not chew with less bite pressure just because you have fewer teeth, but the same pressure is spread over fewer teeth.
Also, if a tooth is not replaced, the teeth above or below and next to the missing tooth tip over and may get gum disease and decay. This can make it much harder to replace the missing tooth later. Replacing teeth with an implant, a fixed bridge, or a removable bridge opens up a whole new set of treatments and larger costs.
For the gums periodontal scaling and root planing and Arestin antibiotic therapy can stop gum disease in its tracks. The goal is to prevent gum surgery, then loss and replacement of teeth.
For the bite, wearing a night guard can take the pressure of night grinding off the teeth, gums, jaw joints, and face muscles. Usually headaches will subside, teeth will tighten up, roots will become less sensitive to cold, and the jaws will feel less stressed.
Obviously handling a dental situation at its earliest diagnosis is the key to keeping your mouth healthy, chewing everything you want, feeling great, and looking wonderful for a lifetime. For sure, if you do this, your dental expenditures over the years will be the lowest possible. But this requires regular dental care with professional cleaning, examination, and x-rays, called “Recare’, when you are not having a dental issue and are not in discomfort.