For years the main approach to treating tooth decay (or caries) could best be described as “drill and fill” — remove the decayed tooth material and fill the resulting cavity. But a new approach has come to prominence that addresses not only the results of decay, but seeks to identify and treat the underlying conditions that caused the decay in the first place, and may continue to infect other teeth.
This approach is known as Caries Management By Risk Assessment or CAMBRA. Rather than a “One Size Fits All” approach, CAMBRA individualizes treatment and prevention options by first assessing your own individual risk for tooth decay.
We base this assessment on what might be called the Caries Balance. On one side are factors that increase your risk of tooth decay, easily remembered by the acronym BAD: Bad bacteria that produces acid; Absence of healthy, functional saliva that neutralizes the effects of acid; and Dietary habits that are heavy with sugars, acids and between meal snacking. On the other side are protective factors that reduce your risk, known as SAFE — Saliva and sealants that protect the surfaces of teeth; Antimicrobials that help rid the mouth of bad bacteria; Fluoride, which strengthens teeth against de-mineralization caused by acid; and an Effective diet.
The assessment first involves a survey of questions about your hygiene habits, dental history and lifestyle: Do you brush twice and floss once daily? Do you live in a fluoridated area or use fluoride mouth rinse? Do you smoke? Have you had frequent cavities in the past? These and other questions, along with a complete dental exam and acid level testing, can give us a more accurate understanding of your risk and how best to incorporate treatment that reduces it even further.
Using CAMBRA, you and our dental team develop a true partnership that actually transforms your dental health from simply treating existing caries, to preventing future occurrences.
If you would like more information on the CAMBRA approach to caries prevention, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Tooth Decay: How to assess your risk.”