The Tipping Point: How teeth go from bad to worse
Every tooth and every mouth has a tipping point. It’s that point where prior mechanical or bacterial damage to the system renders the system incapable of resisting the forces put on the teeth, and they start to break down. To illustrate this, let’s look at a typical life story of some typical back teeth.
Back teeth are often filled early in life to remove existing decay before it destroys the tooth. While the filling saves the tooth, it often weakens it, with larger fillings weakening the tooth more than smaller. As time passes, the weakened tooth flexes from chewing forces and cracks form and propagate, creating bite and temperature sensitivity. Some of these teeth will require root canal treatments and/or crowns to address pain or cracking, while others will crack in such a way that they cannot be saved. In this case, loss of the tooth results in a space that, if left unfilled, increases risk to adjacent teeth as they take more load and gradually drift crookedly into the newly opened space. This damage is compounded as several teeth are lost in different areas, placing even more load on remaining teeth and leading to their early demise.
I think it’s helpful to think of the mouth as a grinding and speaking system. It works best if fully intact. As more components (teeth) are removed, the risk to remaining teeth increases. The system begins to slide down an ever steepening and increasingly slippery slope as teeth become looser to adapt to a poorly fitting bite; adequate oral hygiene becomes more difficult as the natural food-shedding architecture of the intact arch is lost and decay risk increases. What would have been a relatively small investment to address initially now becomes a very large investment, as many components have to be replaced or repaired.
This understanding drives my focus on early prevention and Lifetime Planning for teeth.
My job is to help you reduce your risk.
For patients early in life, I seek to address active cavities with the smallest possible fillings and manage tooth decay risks, bite-related risks, and gum-related risks proactively before damage occurs. The goal here is to establish a system that is lower risk and as such, won’t have to adapt much to function for life. As time passes and teeth show evidence of structural compromise, abnormal wear, or loosening, I seek to correctly diagnose the true cause of the issue and address it. When teeth do break down or become symptomatic, I address the issue in a way that doesn’t compromise adjacent teeth and lowers overall risk to the system.
Keep your teeth away from the tipping point: Manage your unique risks proactively through excellent planning and prevention.