Sensitive teeth are a common indicator of dental caries (cavities or holes), says Dr Wilson Goh, founder of Team GPA (www.gpadental.com). Left untreated, caries can lead to decay and eventual tooth loss.
Twenty-eight per cent of adults between the ages of 35 and 44 have untreated cavities, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Don't be a statistic.
Caries, Explained Dental caries occur when the tooth enamel starts to erode. "This erosion - also called demineralisation - can be caused by acids found in foods such as oranges and tomatoes, or produced by the oral bacteria that feed on the starches and sugars in your mouth, especially refined sugars," Dr Goh says.
Bacteria, Be Gone Plaque - the yellowish stuff on your teeth in which bacteria resides - begins to build up within 20 minutes after you eat. Regular brushing and flossing helps to remove plaque routinely and thoroughly, inhibiting tooth decay.
"Standard dental floss is the most effective tool for cleaning the tight spaces between your teeth," says Dr Alan Carr, a prosthodontist from the Mayo Clinic.
"You can also use dental floss to scrape up and down the sides of each tooth."
Search and Rescue A visit to your dentist can confirm whether or not you have caries. If you're afraid of a dentist prodding around in your mouth with a sharp probe, there is now a more accurate and gentle technology that employs laser fluorescence for detecting caries.
"A low-level laser scans the surface of the tooth to examine its density," says Dr Goh. "Based on a digital readout, we're able to identify the presence and severity of dental caries."
Damage Control "As it begins to form, caries can be treated with fluoride," Dr Goh says. "However, if the caries develop deeper beneath the enamel, a filling or even more invasive treatment is required."
For severe cases, the damaged tooth will be extracted and replaced with an implant. "Detecting caries early, allows us to treat it early," he says. "This means you're more likely to save the tooth and avoid the more expensive treatments later on."
Smart Savings With better diagnosis and preventive measures, you can enjoy substantial savings in dental care. "Patients who are developing caries can be detected very quickly and minimally invasive treatment will be rendered. This could cost between $200-$250 a visit," says Dr Goh.
"If the condition is left undetected and reaches a point where a root canal or implants are needed, the treatment may cost up to $9,000."