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Tooth Talk with Dr. T: Cavities

Published: Sep. 9, 2020 at 7:34 AM CDT
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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - Tooth Talk with Dr. T: Cavities

Good morning. I’m Dr. Kris Tumilowicz at Dental Dimensions at Edgebrook Center. Nobody likes to get cavities. Lets talk about how cavities are formed in the first place. Tooth decay is caused by the action of bacteria on the foods you eat. Thousands of bacteria normally exist in your mouth, and most are beneficial. But some of them form tightly knit colonies, called plaque, which is the sticky, colorless film that develops constantly on your teeth.

The bacteria in plaque survive by digesting the foods you eat, specifically the ones that are broken down into simple sugars. This includes candy and sweets, as well as other high carbohydrate foods like pasta, breads, cereals, milk, dried fruits, juices and sweetened drinks. When the plaque bacteria digests these sugars, a chemical reaction occurs, and the bacteria produce acid.

The acid slowly dissolves the minerals in the outer enamel layer of your teeth, forming a demineralized that appears as a white or brown spot. In the best circumstances, saliva balances the effects of the acid.

It helps wash away bacteria, neutralizes the acids, and replaces the minerals that were lost to acid attack.

However, if you eat too often or too many sugary or starchy foods, the saliva can’t keep up with the bacteria, and they reproduce wildly, developing even thicker accumulations of plaque. These accumulations keep saliva away from the tooth surface, and eventually the acids create a hole in the enamel layer of your tooth.

This hole in the tooth is called a cavity, and once the decay has gotten through the hard enamel, it can grow much more quickly in the softer inner layers of the tooth. Areas in the mouth that trap are especially at risk of decay. These include the grooves in the biting surfaces of teeth, in between teeth, at the gumline, and any exposed tooth roots. You can resist tooth decay by regularly taking action to slow acid production, remove plaque from your teeth, and strengthen the tooth enamel.

Cut down on acid production by limiting the number of times you eat each day and reducing sugary and starchy foods and drinks in your diet. Brush after meals to remove plaque and floss at least once a day to get at the plaque trapped between the teeth, Use a fluoride toothpaste because fluoride strengthens tooth enamel. When you can’t brush, rinsing with water or mouthwash can help, and chewing sugarless gum will stimulate the saliva. Chewing gums that are sweetened with xylitol also inhibit decay-causing bacteria.

Understanding the process of tooth decay and taking action to prevent it will help keep your teeth healthy for a lifetime. So there is alot of science into how cavities are created. So try to avoid them in the first place. Less sugar. Less acid.

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