For years, your mom warned you about them, your dentist looked for them, and you (hopefully) brushed and flossed in order to avoid them. Have you ever stopped, however, to think about what exactly cavities are, and what causes them? Your mom was right about not eating too much sugar, but not exactly in the ways you might think. So if you’ve ever stopped to ask yourself what, exactly, a cavity is, this blog is for you.
Cavities or Bacterial Infection?
The most basic understanding of a cavity is a hole in your tooth that isn’t supposed to be there. It can be in your enamel or it may protrude into a tooth’s inner layers. The problem is that this explanation doesn’t offer the “whole” story — pun intended. In order for a cavity to form, several prerequisites must be met.
Ultimately, a cavity is a bacterial infection caused by streptococcus mutans and a few others. These bacteria are already present within the mouth, along with an estimated 7-8 billion others that carry out a slew of responsibilities. The problem occurs when these strains are allowed to grow rampant by providing them with their favorite food source: simple carbohydrates and sugars. With access to this food source, these bacteria crowd out other strains, and begin to produce an acidic byproduct that dissolves our enamel and damages our gums, leading to periodontal disease.
When enamel begins to soften, it becomes more difficult to properly clean the bacteria from our teeth.
Cavities Are about Timing
It’s very difficult to eliminate all sugars from our diet, especially considering the lengths many manufactures will go to disguise added sugar. Plus, even sticking to whole grain foods, fruits, and veggies, offers some sugars for streptococcus mutans. Luckily, there are things you can do to protect your mouth, and they have to do with timing.
Sugars break down immediately when they enter the mouth, and the whole process takes about thirty minutes. During that process, acidic byproducts are being secreted. Knowing this timeline can help you to plan out your brushing and flossing schedule, leaving desert as the last dish, and allowing you to brush soon after. Using water to clear away food particles containing sugar if you’re far away from a toothbrush can also help to minimize the damage.
Cavities Don’t Form Overnight
Because it takes a specific set of circumstances in order for cavities to form, the process doesn’t happen immediately. Depending on your sugar intake, oral hygiene routine, and even the thickness of your enamel, it could take between 3-6 months. That’s why the American Dental Association suggests you see your dentist for a cleaning and check up twice a year. If a forming cavity is caught before it breaks through the enamel, called and incipient lesion, a flouride treatment or other methods can stop it in its tracks.
If it’s been awhile since you’ve seen a dentist, consider scheduling an appointment as soon as possible.
Do you think you might need gum disease treatment in Scripps Ranch? Please call today for an appointment with Dr. Ramin Goshtasbi at Oasis Dental Arts today.