What Causes Cavities and How Can You Prevent Them?
Tooth decay is the main reason people go to the dentist, and much of the oral hygiene education is focused on how to prevent it. In fact, tooth decay is one of the most common health problems at a global level. Its prevalence is quite high, especially where dental services are costly and the regular diet of the population includes processed foods rich in sugar or carbohydrates.
How Do Cavities Form?
The process that leads to tooth decay has to do with how food is processed by our bodies. Any food we consume makes its way through our mouths, leaving harmful compounds on our teeth.
Plaque is a layer of bacteria on our teeth formed when we have sweet or starchy foods. The bacteria in our mouth is feeding on the simple sugars contained by such foods, and can quickly deposit on our teeth in a sticky, transparent layer.
Demineralization is a transfer of minerals from your teeth’s enamel to this layer of acidic, sticky plaque, leaving your teeth weaker and highly predisposed to getting cavities. Demineralization cannot be eliminated completely, but brushing and cleaning properly will stop the attack of plaque and facilitate the mineralization process, which is getting back those missing minerals in your enamel by having contact with saliva.
Unremoved plaque can quickly become hardened into a layer at the base of your teeth, where decay usually starts. Hardened plaque is called tartar and it can no longer be removed just by brushing: only a professional cleaning will get rid of it.
Tooth decay progresses when the enamel is so weak that bacteria are able to penetrate it and get to the pulp of your tooth. The following symptoms are pain, infections, swelling and a damaged tooth that needs dental treatment.
How to Prevent Tooth Decay?
It might seem redundant to mention it, but regular brushing and flossing are the main way of preventing cavities. These operations should be done properly, insisting on each tooth and getting to all the tight spaces in between them.
The food we eat is also an important factor in the formation of cavities, so staying away from sweet, starchy or acidic foods, especially the ones that tend to stick and linger in your mouth, is a good way of preventing cavities.
Another important step in preventing cavities from forming is going for regular dental check-ups, even if your teeth seem fine. A dentist can spot undetected tooth decay and evaluate your oral health with the skill and expertise that you wouldn’t reach home.
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