Preventative dentistry looks to treat teeth and gums so that problems don’t develop. This may now be extended so that problems are revered when first detected, prevent the need for expensive and awkward treatments.
It has been knows for a while that the outer surface of a tooth can re-calcify when kept clean and treated with fluoride. Dentists encourage this approach when the first signs of decay appear. But it is now understood that decay does not progress as rapidly as previously thought, and that there may be a wider window for preventative measures.
Till recently the tooth showing moderately early signs of decay was thought to be a risk. If the surface could not re-calcify within a few months it was quickly drilled and filled. Dental authorities believed that failure to deal with the problem would lead to rapidly progressing decay, with the whole tooth, not just the surface, being threatened. It is now believed that decay takes several years before being an irreversible threat. During this time is should be possible to detect and treat problems on the tooth surface.
If the decayed tooth surface is detected the damaged areas can be treated with highly concentrated fluoride. Repeated fluoride treatment, and long term removal of unhealthy food products, appears to restore decayed tooth surfaces. As long as there is no physical hole in the tooth the problem should be treatable without resorting to drills and filling material.
Recent trials have seen the need for filling reduce by 30 to 50%.