How Do Cavities Form?

Dr. Perlman looks at a photo of a patient's mouth that is cavity-free

Virtually all of our patients have heard of cavities, as they are one of the most common dental ailments out there. However, far fewer of our patients actually know how cavities form. Here’s a hint: cavities are not directly caused by soda or candy! Keep reading to learn how cavities form on your teeth and how you can prevent them.

What Are Cavities?

Cavities are just what they sound like: a small hole in your tooth. These holes indicate permanent damage of your tooth enamel, the outer protective layer of your teeth. Your tooth enamel may be the hardest surface in your body, but it still requires daily brushing and flossing, regular dental checkups, plenty of water, and a healthy diet to remain strong.

What Is the Relationship Between Bacteria, Acid & Diet?

At any given moment, your mouth is chock full of bacteria. Some of the bacteria is beneficial: it aids in digestion and helps regulate your health. However, some bacteria is harmful. This bacteria feeds on sugars and starches left behind on your teeth after you eat and drink. As this bacteria feeds, it produces an acid byproduct that dissolves the crystalline mineral structure of your enamel. This bacterial acid, in conjunction with acidic foods and beverages, decays your tooth enamel. This decay, if not remineralized, will eventually create a cavity.

Why Do We Treat Cavities?

When acid wears away a hole in your tooth, this tiny hole can extend into the sensitive inner part of your tooth called the pulp. This is a soft bundle of blood vessels and nerves. If left unchecked, bacteria and decay will irritate and damage your inner tooth, and cause sensitivity and infection. In order to prevent further damage, which could cause tooth loss and bone loss, we treat cavities as soon as possible. Often, we will clean out the area where decay has formed and use a filling to cover and seal the hole. However, advanced decay may require root canal therapy to preserve your natural tooth, and some cases even necessitate a tooth extraction.

How Can You Avoid Cavities?

There are two easy ways you can avoid cavities: practice good oral hygiene habits and watch your diet. You should brush your teeth twice daily for two minutes each time with a fluoridated toothpaste, floss every day, and visit our office regularly for cleanings and exams. On top of that, limit your intake of refined foods that are sugary, sticky, and/or starchy, which the bad bacteria in your mouth love to feed on. After eating, chew sugar-free gum for at least 20 minutes and drink plenty of water. Additionally, eat a balanced diet high in dark green leafy vegetables, fresh fruit, whole grains, lean protein, fish, nuts, milk, and cheese.

To ask our team any questions about cavities or to schedule your next appointment, contact our office today!

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