Hello, my dear readers and writers! As you know from my previous post, I have experienced some dental issues and I have to take care of my oral hygiene more than I did before. Because cavities.
What are cavities?
Cavities are caused by tooth decay. Tooth decay can affect both the outer coating of a tooth (called enamel) and the inner layer (called dentin).
Cavities are formed when foods rich in carbohydrates like bread, cereal, milk, soda, fruit, cake, candy, etc stay on our teeth. In this way, the bacteria in our mouth transforms them into acids.
The bacteria, acid, food debris, and our saliva combine to form plaque, which clings to the teeth. The acids in plaque dissolve the enamel, creating holes called cavities.
Untreated, cavities get larger and affect deeper layers of our teeth. Cleaning our teeth should be a habit, as in time, cavities develop and we may suffer from severe pain, infections, and tooth loss.
How tooth decay occurs
As I mentioned, cavities are formed by tooth decay, which is a process that occurs in time.
Plaque forms. Dental plaque is a clear sticky film that coats our teeth. It’s due to eating a lot of sugars and starches and not cleaning our teeth well. When sugars and starches aren’t cleaned off our teeth, bacteria quickly begin feeding on them and form plaque. Plaque that stays on your teeth can harden under or above our gum line into tartar (calculus). Tartar makes plaque more difficult to remove and creates a shield for bacteria.
Plaque attacks. The acids in plaque remove minerals in our tooth’s hard, outer enamel. This erosion causes tiny openings or holes in the enamel — the first stage of cavities. Once areas of enamel are worn away, the bacteria and acid can reach the next layer of our teeth, called dentin. This layer is softer than enamel and less resistant to acid. Dentin has tiny tubes that directly communicate with the nerve of the tooth causing sensitivity.
Destruction continues. As tooth decay develops, the bacteria and acid continue their march through our teeth, moving next to the inner tooth material (pulp) that contains nerves and blood vessels. The pulp becomes swollen and irritated from the bacteria. Because there is no place for the swelling to expand inside of a tooth, the nerve becomes pressed, causing pain. Discomfort can even extend outside of the tooth root to the bone.
What causes cavities?
Foods that cling to our teeth for a long time, such as milk, ice cream, honey, sugar, soda, dried fruit, cake, cookies, hard candy and mints, dry cereal, and chips — are more prone to cause decay than foods that are easily washed away by saliva.
Frequent snacking and sipping. Even if it is recommended in certain diets, the frequent snacking and sipping give mouth bacteria more fuel to produce acids that attack our teeth and wear them down. The situation gets worse if we consume acidic drinks like Coca Cola.
Brushing. It’s very important to brush our teeth sooner after we eat or drink, because plaque forms quickly, and the first stages of tooth decay can begin.
Dry Mouth. Saliva prevents tooth decay by washing away the foods and plague from our teeth. Substances found in saliva also help counter the acid produced by bacteria.
Heartburn. Heartburn or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) can cause stomach acid to flow into our mouth (reflux), wearing away the enamel of your teeth and causing significant tooth damage.
How to prevent cavities?
It is important to brush our teeth after we eat, preferably with fluoride toothpaste. To clean between teeth we can floss or use an interdental cleaner. We can also use a mouth wash with fluoride to wash away the excess foods between the teeth after the brushing process.
Eating tooth-friendly foods should be on our list as well. We should avoid foods that cling to our teeth, and brush soon after eating them, if required. Foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables increase saliva flow, and unsweetened coffee, tea, and sugar-free gum help wash away food particles.
It’s advised to avoid frequent snacking and sipping, because our teeth are constantly under attack, as we help our mouth bacteria create acids that can destroy tooth enamel.
Tap water is high in fluoride which can help reduce tooth decay significantly. If we only stick on to bottled water, we might miss the fluoride benefits.
In the end, it’s essential to consult with our dentist, have regular visits, and get professional help. The best advice that I can give is to start early. If you have a tooth sensitivity, a small cavity, don’t let it dwell and get worse. Seek professional help and have a healthy smile! 😉😁