What causes a cavity?
Bacteria Cause Cavities. To beat tooth decay, you must understand it. Bacteria produce acid as they feed on the carbohydrates (starches and sugars) they find on teeth. The acid eats away at our teeth causing the hollow spaces called cavities. Everyone can get cavities, but some people are greater risk than others.
Certain types of bacteria, especially cavity-causing bacteria, break down the sugars in what we eat and drink. In this process they produce acid that breaks down the calcium and phosphate bonds in the tooth causing these essential components to leach out. The tooth eventually gets so weak, that large holes form.
What does plaque do?
Plaque is a sticky coating of food particles and bacteria .
The plaque that forms on your teeth and doesn’t get washed away by saliva or brushed away by your toothbrush produces acid as it eats up sugar. This acid is produced inside the plaque and can’t be easily washed away by your saliva. The acid dissolves the minerals that make your tooth enamel hard (enamel is the hard outer layer of the tooth). The surface of the enamel becomes porous – tiny holes appear. After a while, the acid causes the tiny holes in the enamel to get bigger until one large hole appears. This is a cavity. For an experiment about the power of acid, check out the Acid Detective Experiment!
Why does it take so long to hurt?
Nerve fibres, the way that pain is sent through the body, aren’t present in tooth enamel. While the acid is attacking the enamel, you can’t feel a thing.
Once the acid has begun to create a cavity and attacks the dentin under the enamel, the nerve fibres begin to send out a message that something is wrong. But by then, you have tooth decay.
That’s why it’s important to have regular, preventive dental check-ups. Don’t wait until it hurts!
How do you stop cavities?
Beat the Clock – foods that are eaten during a meal usually pose less of a threat to teeth because of the additional saliva produced during mealtime eating. Saliva helps to wash food particles from your mouth and lessen the damage from acid.
Brush and floss those teeth – toothbrushing is important, and you should brush twice a day. Did you know that if you don’t floss, you miss cleaning up to 35% of each tooth? If you’re not sure how to floss, just ask!
Stock up on Dairy Products – yogurt and cheese, milk and milk products contain things that are good for your teeth. Everything that’s made from milk is a good source of calcium – an essential nutrient for the development of bones and teeth.
Fluoride – The American Dental Association recommends that systemic fluoride be taken until age 16. This fluoride makes the enamel of growing teeth harder. Fluoride in toothpaste makes teeth that are already in the mouth harder. The combination of the two is NOT too much fluoride. Each work differently to help protect the teeth from cavities!