We’ve been told how important it is to have good brushing and flossing habits in order to prevent cavities. We’ve all been rewarded as children for having a cavity-free dentist visit, or reprimanded for having a couple, but how many of us really know what cavities are and how they’re caused?
Our mouths are full of bacteria. Different types of bacteria live on our teeth, gums, tongue and other places in our mouths. Some bacteria are helpful, but others can play a role in the tooth decay process. Tooth decay happens when certain types of bacteria use sugars in food to make acids. Over time, these acids can make a hole, or a cavity, in your teeth.
When a tooth is exposed to acid frequently, especially when you eat foods or drink beverages that contain sugar or starches, the enamel of the tooth loses minerals. Sometimes, a white spot appears where minerals have been lost. This is an early sign of tooth decay.
At this point, the decay can be reversed. Our saliva contains minerals (such as calcium and phosphate) that help the enamel repair itself by replacing the minerals lost in an “acid attack.” Our teeth go through this process of losing and replacing minerals all day long. The enamel also uses fluoride from toothpaste to replenish minerals, and the fluoride helps prevent the bacteria on your teeth from producing acids. If the tooth decay advances, more minerals are lost. Once the enamel is weakened and destroyed, a cavity is formed.
- Limit between-meal snacks. This reduces the “acid attacks” and gives your teeth a chance to repair themselves.
- Make candy, cookies, soda and other sugar-filled treats for special occasions.
- Limit your intake of fruit juice
- Saliva decreases during sleep. Avoid sugar after brushing your teeth before bed.
One of our knowledgeable, low cost dentists in Phoenix can tell you which stage the decay has reached in your teeth and if more fluoride can handle the problem, or if fillings may be necessary.