So What are Cavities (Tooth Decay) Exactly? Our mouths are full of bacteria. Hundreds of different types live on our teeth, gums, tongue and other places in our mouths. Some bacteria are helpful. But some can be harmful such as those that play a role in the tooth decay process.
Tooth decay is the result of an infection with certain types of bacteria that use sugars in food to make acids. Over time, these acids can make a cavity in the tooth.
Tooth decay is the destruction of your tooth enamel, the hard, outer layer of your teeth. It can be a problem for children, teens and adults. Plaque, a sticky film of bacteria, constantly forms on your teeth. When you eat or drink foods containing sugars, the bacteria in plaque produce acids that attack tooth enamel. The stickiness of the plaque keeps these acids in contact with your teeth and over time the enamel can break down. This is when cavities can form.
How plaque causes tooth decay
Your mouth is full of bacteria that form a film over the teeth called dental plaque.
When you consume food and drink high in carbohydrates – particularly sugary foods and drinks – the bacteria in plaque turn the carbohydrates into energy they need, producing acid at the same time.
If the plaque is allowed to build up, the acid can begin to break down (dissolve) the surface of your tooth, causing holes known as cavities.
Once cavities have formed in the enamel, the plaque and bacteria can reach the dentine (the softer, bone-like material underneath the enamel). As the dentine is softer than the enamel, the process of tooth decay speeds up.
Without treatment, bacteria will enter the pulp (the soft center of the tooth that contains nerves and blood vessels). At this stage, your nerves will be exposed to bacteria, usually making your tooth painful.
When a tooth is exposed to acid often — for example, if you eat or drink often, especially foods or drinks containing sugar and starches — the repeated cycles of acid attacks cause the enamel to continue to lose minerals. A white spot may appear where minerals have been lost. This is a sign of early decay.
Products from Amazon.com
Price: $28.34Was: $28.97
Tooth decay can be stopped or reversed at this point. Enamel can repair itself by using minerals from saliva, and fluoride from toothpaste or other sources.
But if the tooth decay process continues, more minerals are lost. Over time, the enamel is weakened and destroyed, forming a cavity. A cavity is permanent damage that a dentist has to repair with a filling.
Preventing tooth decay
Although tooth decay is a common problem, it’s often entirely preventable. The best way to avoid tooth decay is to keep your teeth and gums as healthy as possible. For example, you should:
- visit your dentist regularly –your dentist will decide how often they need to see you based on the condition of your mouth, teeth and gums
- cut down on sugary and starchy food and drinks, particularly between meals or within an hour of going to bed – some medications can also contain sugar, so it’s best to look for sugar-free alternatives where possible
- look after your teeth and gums –brushing your teeth properly with a fluoride toothpaste twice a day, using floss and an interdental brush at least once a day
- avoid smoking or drinking alcohol excessively – tobacco can interfere with saliva production, which helps to keep your teeth clean, and alcohol can contribute to the erosion of tooth enamel
- see your dentist or GP if you have a persistently dry mouth –this may be caused by certain medicines, treatment or medical conditions
How to Heal a Cavity Naturally
Embedded from Fab How