Sioux City dentist explains – what is the main cause of tooth cavities and how to prevent cavities
Sharing knowledge is always good and I am looking forward to giving you information that will help you improve your oral health and your overall health. In my Sioux City dental practice, I prioritize patient education. Here, I hope to share valuable tips and information with all my patients, current and future. One of the most important pieces of information that you need is how to prevent tooth cavities. Of course, in order to prevent them, you need to know what causes tooth cavities.
The only good cavity is the one you never get
As we all know, prevention is easier than dental treatment. So, let’s talk about prevention. Cavities are caused by multiple factors, from nutritional intake to the bacterial activity inside your mouth.
To start with, realize that teeth are composed of several layers. Dental pulp, which includes nerves, vessels, and other soft tissue, is in the middle of the tooth. Next, there is a thick layer of dentin, a relatively hard material. The outermost layer, enamel, is stronger than any other the human body produces. Diamond is the only natural substance that is stronger. Yet, tooth enamel is very, very thin. It protects the delicate underlying tissues very well – until it gets a hole.
Tooth cavity FAQ
So how do holes form in enamel?
Cavities are caused by acid that demineralizes or weakens the enamel.
Where does the acid come from?
There are certain bacteria that live in your mouth that cause decay because they produce acid. If you do not have these bacteria, you won’t have cavities. The two most common bacteria that cause decay are Streptococcus Mutans and Lactobacilli. So, you can “catch” a cavity-causing bacterial infection like you do a cold.
Does sugar cause cavities?
The answer is yes, but indirectly. Sugar feeds cavity causing bacteria, helping them grow and thrive in your mouth. The Strep Mutans breaks down sugar into acids, which erode tooth enamel.
How does acid cause cavities?
The acids drop the pH level in your mouth and the enamel gets weak because it loses minerals. As the pH drops, it makes it easier for the lactobacilli to grow and contribute more acid to the environment. Acid is known to break down and erode many different substances, and tooth enamel is among them. A neutral PH level is 7.0. When that drops to 5.5 or lower, you are at risk for cavities.
What happens when a cavity goes all the way through enamel?
Once the enamel has a hole in it, the bacteria can feed off the dentin inside the tooth. Dentin is a living substance like bone. The bacteria breakdown the protein and collagen of the dentin and demineralize it. As long as there is acid, the process just continues as the tooth is destroyed and the nerve becomes exposed and you have a toothache.
Tooth decay – stop it before it starts
Harmful bacteria could be living, thriving, and wreaking havoc in your mouth. So how do we prevent this from happening? There are two main areas of attack: change the bacteria and control the pH.
To change the bacteria, you can use xylitol products which don’t allow the Strep Mutans to produce acid. Xylitol is a sweetener that at first the bacteria can’t use it. When they change to be able to use it, then they aren’t producing acid. You can also change the bacterial count by using antibacterial mouthwashes and, of course, by frequent toothbrushing. There are other products that reduce the number of bacteria. Loloz is a product that has a licorice extract that decreases bacteria and there is an oral probiotic that crowds out the bad bacteria with better bacteria.
You can help. By controlling the pH by using baking soda toothpaste and chewing sugar free gum after eating. Another thing to be aware of is that what we drink impacts the pH of our mouth. Sipping on regular soda is a double whammy because it is low pH and the bacteria love to break the sugar down into more acid. Even something as simple as drinking water can help get the pH back to neutral. There are certain foods that help prevent decay by raising the pH. One is hard cheese; it has the minerals at the right pH to go back into the enamel and make it harder. Other foods that raise the pH are nuts, seeds, coconut, kidney beans, soybeans, watermelon, and tuna.
The role of preventive dentistry
Do you think that regular dental checkups are optional? Or that it is just a cleaning? If you’ve fallen victim to one of the most common and harmful oral health myths. The benefits of routine biannual dental visits include:
- Deep cleaning and polishing – Teeth have tiny groves (fissures) and tight spaces where bacteria accumulate, and you certainly can’t see what you are doing when brushing and flossing. Therefore, even a good hygiene routine might not get your teeth completely clean. Any plaque left behind can turn to tartar in a matter of days. Your hygienist uses special tools and techniques to completely clean teeth, including any plaque and tartar below the gumline. Polishing smooths the surface, making it more difficult for plaque to adhere.
- Examination – You probably think that your teeth are healthy if they don’t hurt. However, as we discussed above, enamel and dentin protect the nerves. The pain typically doesn’t start until a cavity or fracture reaches deeper layers. That means, if we catch it early, we can keep you out of pain. We also evaluate your gum health, check for signs of oral health, and even check your blood pressure.
- Advice – Each person has slightly different oral health and hygiene needs. For example, diabetic individuals have a higher risk of gum disease, and patients with dental bridges need to take extra steps in oral hygiene. We will guide you in developing and refining healthy habits, based on your medical history, lifestyle, and oral health.