Straight Teeth Talk: Good oral hygiene key to preventing decay

May 3, 2010 at 12:03 a.m.
Updated May 4, 2010 at 12:04 a.m.

Before massive decay.

Before massive decay.

By Mac Lee

The truth is, sometimes people just let their teeth get into terrible shape.

Why this happens can be attributed to multiple reasons and shouldn't be harped on. What to do about it and how to keep it from happening again is something to talk about.

The patient highlighted here certainly let things get out of hand. She, like many people in this condition, was terrified to go to the dentist. Fortunately, she did seek help.

Obviously, this patient spent a lot of time, emotion and money to get her mouth healthy and beautiful.

In this particular case, the patient chose to wear temporary replacement teeth for about two years. Some of these temporaries showed decayed because of the delay in getting her final work done.

This patient obviously wanted to protect her investment and not experience decay in her new smile and dental work.

Below are the questions she asked. They were so good and insightful; I wanted to share them with you.

Q: Were my actual teeth decaying under the temporaries?

A: Yes, you had decay where the temporary met the tooth at the gum line.

Q: How badly were they decayed?

A: Fortunately, the decay was just starting. It was small enough to not weaken your natural teeth much more than they were in the first place.

Q: I really took care of my teeth during the temporary stage. How will I keep decay from happening after I get my final teeth on?

A: Temporaries are just that, temporaries. They are not made of very strong material and they are not hermetically sealed, in other words, they do not have airtight protection against bacterial and decay. Since they are made of plastic, temporaries eventually breakdown and breakdown at the seal. This allows foods and sugars to seep in under the crown and start the decay process. Your final, porcelain crowns are precision fit, they are very strong and hermetically sealed, so fluid, saliva and sugar cannot get inside of them.

Q: How will I know if I have decay underneath my crowns if an X-ray won't even show decay under a crown?

A: Hermetically-sealed teeth do not get decay underneath the crown. What can happen is the tooth below the crown can decay. That decay can move up to the seal, break it and then go under the crown. The trick is to make sure you clean 360 degrees around the crowned teeth and come in for regular cleanings and check ups.

Q: Am I brushing too much around the gum and breaking the seals?

A: One cannot really brush too much if they are using a soft toothbrush, using floss and the water pick correctly. You will probably find yourself going on what we call the "Dental Diet." That is where someone becomes so picky about having clean teeth that they brush, floss and water pick after every meal, so they choose not to snack. They usually end up losing weight.

Remember, dentistry is nothing like it used to be. Remember to ask your dentist all of the burning questions you have about your oral health. After all, it's your smile, health, emotion and money.

Mac Lee is a dentist in practice in Edna. He is the co-founder of Dentists Who Care, a national movement to educate the public on modern dentistry. If you have dental questions you can call him at 361-782-7191 or visit him at



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