Do We Outgrow Tooth Decay?

Short answer: No. But, since an answer that short is hardly worth the time it took you to click on the link, allow us to explain further!

We tend to think of tooth decay as something we leave behind with childhood. And, while it’s true that youthful cavities are unfortunately common, older adults face unique challenges of their own that put them at risk for cavities.

Root Cavities

Gum tissue often recedes with age. And our roots, which were once completely covered and protected by gum tissue, become partially exposed to plaque, acidic foods, and the abrasive effects of heavy-handed brushing.

This is a problem. Instead of enamel, a substance called cementum covers and protects our roots. But cementum isn’t as strong as enamel, and so our roots are much more vulnerable to the cavity-causing bacteria in plaque, erosion from dietary acids, and damage caused by abrasive brushing. Root cavities also progress faster than crown cavities, which can mean a root canal procedure in your future, or, even worse, an extraction if a cavity isn’t treated promptly.

What can you do to avoid root cavities?

  • Do what you do to avoid any cavity—brush at least twice a day for two minutes, use floss to clean between the teeth and along the gumline, and use a fluoride toothpaste.
  • Fluoride treatments can be applied to the exposed root area for added protection. Ask the doctor about this option.
  • Always use a soft toothbrush. Even a brush with medium bristles can be too firm for teeth and gums.
  • Take care of your gum health. If you have symptoms of serious gum disease, expert care in diagnosis and treatment can be provided by the doctor.

Why see a periodontist? Gum recession can have many serious consequences if left untreated. Besides root cavities, gum recession can lead to infection, bone loss, and tooth loss. A periodontist is skilled in treating the structures which support our teeth, with additional years of study after dental school specializing in the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of gum disease.

the doctor can help restore gum health with both non-surgical and surgical options at our Falls Church, Virginia office, including:

  • Scaling and planing. These non-surgical deep cleaning procedures remove plaque and tartar above and below the gumline, and smooth tooth roots to remove bacteria and help the gum tissue reattach to the teeth.
  • Flap surgery. This procedure treats persistent gum infection, reducing pocket depth between gum and tooth and re-securing the gums snugly around the teeth.
  • Gum grafting. For more severe gum recession, tissue from your own mouth or a tissue bank can be surgically placed to cover exposed roots, restoring and regenerating gum tissue.

Keeping up with our dental and periodontal health is important at any age. Brushing and flossing, fluoride toothpaste, regular dental exams and cleanings—the basics of dental health don’t change over time, even if our dental challenges are a bit different as we get older. After all, do you ever outgrow an attractive, healthy smile? This answer is short and sweet: never.

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