Some people brush, floss, and even have great oral hygiene, but still have problems with dental decay! So, what gives? Many times the answer lies in acid build up. When acids are allowed to erode tooth enamel long enough to leach calcium and other minerals from the enamel and dentin, a process called demineralization occurs. This rapidly leads to tooth decay unless reversed by increased oral hygene and professional dental cleanings. Acids responsible for tooth decay come from the wastes of mutans streptococci and lactobacilli bacteria that thrive in dental plaque, a substance that is the leading cause of gum disease as well.
ACID: THE SOURCE
Dietary sugars comprise the bulk of tooth-decaying acids, including table sugar, cooked starches, fructose, glucose, and lactose. In fact, as soon as you bite down on a sugary cookie or into a French fry, bacteria start digesting sugars, breaking them down and eventually excreting them as demineralizing acids. As this bacteria colony grows and becomes more organized, plaque develops and forms that tough, yellowish coating that you often see on the tops of teeth at the gumline.
PROBLEM: THE PLAQUE
Dental plaque is a sticky film that harbors bacteria and also keeps the bacterial acids pressed against the tooth enamel. Since hardened plaque cannot be removed by brushing alone, it is important that a person receive a professional cleaning at our office to keep your teeth throughly free of tartar.
TOOTH DECAY: THE SYMPTOMS
Early tooth decay and cavities remain asymptomatic until demineralization creates a hole deep enough to reach the tooth's inner tissues and nerve endings. Eventually, tooth decay will cause tooth sensitivity, a toothache, vague pain when biting down on the affected tooth, or if the decay creates an infection, even pus that seeps out around the gumline may be noted. If treatment is delayed long enough, a decaying tooth may loosen, crumble, and ultimately fall out, which leaves an empty or partially empty socket.
PREVENTION: THE ANSWER
Getting regular dental check-ups, brushing for two minutes twice a day, effective flossing, limiting sweets, and eating fruits or crunchy vegetables for snacks are the best ways to keep your teeth healthy, white, and where they should be: in your mouth for a lifetime!