How Dental Cavities Form and How to Fight Them

We use our mouths for a variety of tasks every day – drinking, tasting, chewing, and speaking. These seem like simple exercises, but our mouths are a lot more complicated than we might at first believe. All of the action inside our mouths contributes to our potential for tooth decay; fortunately, at McDowell Family and Cosmetic Dentistry, we can teach you the best ways to take care of your mouth!.

What Makes a Mouth?

Your mouth is made up of more than your teeth and tongue. There are three additional important elements of your mouth that contribute to tooth decay:

  • Saliva – You may not think much about your spit, but it serves an important function for the overall health of your teeth. Saliva keeps your mouth moist, cleansing your teeth of food particles and decreasing acid levels that cause cavities.
  • Bacteria – There are several kinds of bacteria that live in our mouths, just like the rest of our bodies. Some bacteria are good, while some are harmful. Bacteria feeds on leftover food stuck in our teeth, producing acid that forms plaque.
  • Plaque – Plaque is the yellow, sticky substance that sticks to teeth and can cause cavities.

How Cavities Form

When you eat foods that contain carbohydrates, bacteria uses the leftovers to form plaque that leads to tooth decay. Plaque is formed by acid produced by the bacteria, eventually dissolving the outer layer of teeth (called enamel). The more you eat, the more your teeth are exposed to acids and plaque.

Tooth decay that includes cavities is also referred to as dental caries. The bacteria form acid which dissolves the outer layer of the tooth. A white spot might appear that indicates the weakened area, but this preliminary stage of tooth decay may also be seen in a digital x-ray.

Once the decay breaks through the outer layer of a tooth, a cavity will form. Essentially the decay will get worse, destroying the tooth from the inside out.

How to Fight Cavities

Once cavities have formed, the damage is permanent. At this point, Dr. McDowell would need to clean out the decay and fill the tooth to prevent losing the tooth.

Before that point, however, much can be done to prevent cavities from forming or destroying teeth. Once a white spot appears on a tooth that indicates that a cavity is developing, the tooth can be treated with proteins and minerals in saliva as well as fluoride.

Good daily oral hygiene habits also help decrease the chances of forming cavities. Brushing twice a day – once in the morning and once in the evening – is required for healthy teeth and gums. Flossing needs to be practiced once a day, combined with fluoride if necessary. Eating a well-balanced diet can also help keep your teeth healthy and bright.

Visit Dr. McDowell and the entire team at at least once every six months to keep your teeth free from decay – call 503-655-4111 today to make your personal appointment.

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