Cavity Prevention Systems

November 1, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
While we're on alert about spreading the flu virus, there's another health condition that's contagious. Did you know, you could "get and give" cavities?Nikki Johnson of Fresno starts and finishes her day like most people, brushing her teeth. But her good dental habit hasn't always been rewarded.

"I brush 3 times a day, I floss three times a day after every meal but I still get cavities," said Johnson.

It's a frustrating problem for patients and dentists, alike.

"They can be doing everything we've asked them to do, brushing, flossing, using fluoride rinses, really watching what they eat and they still come in and they still have a cavity," said Dr. Treva Lee, DDS.

But Fresno dentist Dr. Treva Lee hopes to end that dental dilemma with a new treatment, designed to stop tooth decay before it starts.

It sounded like the perfect prescription for Nikki.

"I have a really bad habit of drinking sodas so I hope this new stuff will kind of help me out," said Johnson.

Nikki hopes to prevent cavities to protect her children, because she was surprised to find out...

"Cavities are contagious. They can be transmitted from family member to family member."

Dr. Lee said family members can pass along bad bacteria in the mouth, giving each other the material that creates cavities.

So Dr. Lee has started using a new prevention system called "Cari-free", on many of her patients.

The process begins with an assessment of the patient's bacteria level. "We have good bacteria and bad bacteria that create a lot of acids which create a lot of cavities so when it gets out of balance, some people have more of the bacteria that create the acids and they're more susceptible to getting cavities."

A swab sample is taken in the mouth and placed inside a special meter that gives a reading. Dr. Lee shows Nikki her cavity risk number: 723, which is good. Any number above 1500 would be considered high risk.

Once patients to through the evaluation and initial treatment, they're then put on a simple maintenance rinse to stop cavities before they start. It's all in an effort to keep patients from the dreaded drill.

"I've had fillings and a couple crowns so I want to avoid any more work that needs to be done," said Nikki Johnson.

Dr. Lee said the "Cari-free" system doesn't just wash out bacteria but actually disrupts its life-cycle, with the ingredient, xylotol. "It goes in there like of your lawn has a lot of weeds in it...it kind of goes out and tries to get rid of all those weeds in there, that's like the bad bacteria."

The assessment and the kit costs $70 to $120 dollars, depending on the patients needs.

Dr, Lee says that's a savings considering the much higher cost of a couple hundred dollars to fill a cavity.

Nikki Johnson hopes "Cari-free" save money out of her pocket and time in the dental chair.

Dentists say a variety of factors influence the bacteria level in the mouth and some can be controlled, such as eating habits and soda-drinking. But some people are more susceptible to cavities because of the natural conditions in their mouth.

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