Tooth decay is a common problem, but can be prevented. It is caused through the teeth being repeatedly exposed to acid. This acid can come from eating foods that have high acidity, or it can be due to the presence of bacteria in the mouth. The reason for this is that bacteria cause a process called demineralization.
What Is Demineralization?
When you eat or drink something that is very starchy or which has a lot of sugar then it’s inevitable that there will be some leftover food particles in your mouth. These are used by the bacteria in your mouth as an energy source, and the bacteria produce acid as a byproduct. This acid attacks the tooth enamel, causing it to weaken and soften as it leaches out some of the essential minerals including calcium and phosphorus.
Over time this acid can cause small pits and lesions to form in the surface of the tooth enamel, and this is the beginning of a cavity. The outer layer of tooth enamel is very hard, but it protects a much softer substance underneath which is called dentin. Once they have created a hole in the tooth enamel, the bacteria will be able to enter the dentin and will gradually eat away at this much softer layer. Eventually the bacteria will penetrate the very center of the tooth which is called the pulp. This contains all the blood vessels and nerves of the tooth, and by this stage you are likely to be experiencing toothache due to the pulp being infected. At this point you may need root canal therapy at the Cosmetic Dentistry Center to remove the infection and to repair the tooth.
Preventing Tooth Decay
Things don’t have to get to this stage as you can prevent tooth decay. After demineralization has occurred then your mouth gradually becomes less acidic. Some of the calcium and phosphorus leached out from your teeth will have remained in your saliva, and are redeposited back into the tooth enamel helping to re-harden it in a process called re-mineralization. This is one of the reasons why it’s worth waiting half an hour or so after eating before brushing your teeth as otherwise you would interrupt this process.
Regular brushing and flossing at home will ensure many of the bacteria responsible for causing tooth decay are removed from your mouth, helping to keep their numbers low. Making sure you schedule biannual checkups combined with professional cleanings will help tremendously. Our dentist will be able to detect any tiny lesions in your tooth enamel and can either monitor them or some degree of tooth enamel repair can often be achieved through applying fluoride to the affected tooth.
If you do have a small cavity then the tooth filling procedure will be less expensive and less invasive. Professional cleanings help to remove hardened plaque from your teeth, lessening the chance of tooth decay as well as gum disease. Preventative dentistry can help keep your risk of tooth decay to a minimum, but some people are simply more prone to developing cavities than others.
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