You have heard of the white lesion of decay. Now what?
Early decay on a tooth shows as a white chalky line or halo. Once you have this what can you do to stop it or repair the damage? The old silver fillings were the answer 50 years ago but they were ugly, contained mercury, and took away healthy tooth structure. The tooth colored fillings were less damaging to the tooth by bonding but they too required removal of tooth structure.
Today dentistry takes advantage of modern chemistry. Now we change the chemistry of the tooth and oral environment. Calcium and phosphate ions interchange between the tooth and saliva constantly, usually from tooth to the acid saliva. The application of varnish that has calcium phosphate and fluoride remineralizes the tooth. The treated surface is more resistant to acid and the new surface of flourapatite resist bacterial attachment. A follow up at home usage of toothpaste with fluoride and calcium phosphate continues the protection.
Who benefits from this treatment? Adult patients with periodontal problems are probably the number one benefactors. The softened roots from the exposed tooth are susceptible to decay and this helps tremendously. People who have braces,brackets or bridgework where it is difficult to clean benefit tremendously from varnish and toothpaste with fluoride and calcium phosphate formulations.
Fighting oral disease with chemistry is the future for dentistry. The early lesions benefit from varnishes and the developed decay is stopped with silver diamine fluoride. Of course missing tooth structure needs replacement but we beat back decay with chemistry today.
Dr. Vivian Hudson
Text adapted from Inside Dentistry.