If you’ve ever been told as a kid that you have a cavity, then you’ve experienced firsthand what tooth decay is. While we’ve all been told by our dentists as children that cavities are bad, not everyone may know what they are exactly and how they start. Here’s some more information on what tooth decay entails and why it happens.
The human mouth is full of bacteria, some of which are actually beneficial to our health and aid in digestion. Others are pretty harmful, especially a strain called Streptococcus mutans. This kind of bacteria feeds on the sugars and starches left on the teeth and gums, and produces acids that erode tooth enamel. Although tooth enamel is the hardest substance in the human body, over time, the acids and habits like teeth grinding can wear it away, exposing the dentin, the softer inner tissue of your teeth.
Your body does have a natural defense, however, against the acid attacks that come from the bacteria. It’s called saliva. More than just a mouth lubricant, saliva contains calcium and phosphate, the minerals that make up your tooth enamel. Especially with a little assistance from fluoride, enamel is able to repair itself by replacing the minerals lost to the acid. Throughout the day, our teeth are “demineralizing” and “remineralizing.”
Once this balance is lost, however, the tooth decay process continues and a cavity is formed. That’s when your Gilbert dentist will recommend fillings, crowns or other tooth restoration procedures. If the process is not too advanced, the dentist may also recommend more fluoride in the form of gels or mouth rinses to help restore the balance.
The best way to protect your teeth from decay is to brush at least twice daily and floss at least once. This removes the starches and sugars that feed the bacteria in the first place. Here are some extra tips to keep the acid attacks at a minimum:
- Limit between-meal snacks. This will decrease the number of acid attacks your teeth must endure throughout the day.
- Save the sugary treats for special occasions.
- Limit fruit juice. Even the brands with no added sugar still have a lot of natural sugar in them.
- During sleep, saliva production decreases, which leaves your teeth more vulnerable to acids, so it’s important to nix the sugar after you’ve brushed your teeth at night.
In order to thoroughly protect your teeth, it’s important to see your Arizona dentist regularly. If you’re due for a checkup, call today to make an appointment.