You may have gone to dentist and had fillings on your teeth done due to cavities. You may also have had root canals and crowns because a tooth broke. Why did they happen? How did I get a cavity? Why did my tooth break? And over time they may need new replacement fillings or crowns, and you may be thinking why needed to be replaced.
IS MY MOUTH REALLY DIRTY AND HARSH?When dentistry first started, dentists needed materials that could withstand the harsh environment in the mouth. The mouth is truly an inhospitable environment!
- Consistently moist due to saliva. Moisture, much like that of rain causing wood rot, can cause wear and tear on the teeth and promote bacterial growth.
- Oral temperature is approximately 98.2 degrees Farenheight. This temperature is favorable to bacteria growth.
- As such due to constant moisture and heat, the mouth contains 500-1000 types of bacteria, with Streptococcus Mutans as the predominant bacterial strain.
- Constant exposure to foods and drinks that are acidic. A low pH wreaks havoc on teeth and may make it prone to wear and tear.
- Exposure to foods that are hard and crunchy. Carrots, celery, nuts, hard sugar candies, chips, cookies, and ice. These foods can cause quite a bit of trauma to our teeth, and have been known to crack a few teeth!
- Bruxism, grinding, and clenching. These "parafunctional habits" cause a tremendous amount of pressure on our teeth. Molars generate well over 200 pounds per square inch, stronger than that of a gorilla and chimpanzee! Imagine having this force subjected on your teeth on a consistent night time basis. Due to life stress, this may even occur during the daytime.
WHAT HAPPENS INSIDE THE MOUTH?With a moist and warm environment, bacteria favors the tooth's smooth enamel surface, and is a place for bacteria to reside. Exposure to food and plaque permits bacteria to feed off plaque that unleashes enzymes that promote tooth decay. Add on daily exposure to hard foods and potential grinding and clenching, the mouth can be a combat zone.
CAN FILLINGS AND CROWNS REALLY WITHSTAND THE MOUTH?With tooth decay or cavities, dentists require materials that can mimic tooth structure and with stand natural tooth flex and stress. Tooth colored fillings, when small and moderately sized, has been shown to hold up well within the mouth. If teeth break or if a cavity is excessively large, porcelain crowns due to its monolithic porcelain layering, can mimic natural tooth in terms of esthetics and withstand harsh chewing forces.
Much like a natural tooth and our bones, they can weaken, break, and crack. No dental material can last forever, but studies have shown with proper care, fillings and crowns can last anywhere from two to ten years or longer before needing replacement.
FOR OPTIMAL DENTAL CARE, WHAT CAN I DO TO PROTECT MY TEETH?Daily brushing and flossing are two of the most effective ways to decrease bacterial levels. Changing the toothbrush head every 3 months to ensure the bristles stay effective and to avoid exposure to growing bacteria. Going to the dentist twice a year for checkups and dental cleanings will help remove excessive bacteria and plaque. Using a nightguard if you grind your teeth at night will help prevent tooth fracture that may require extraction or emergency dentistry. And getting a filling when the cavity is small will help avoid more expensive treatments down the line.
If you have any questions about your mouth and its oral environment, be sure to consult with your family dentist or hygienist.
From your friendly dental office,
Dr. Peter Chien