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How Dental Cavities Form

  • Jun 26, 2020

How Dental Cavities Form

Your dentist must have told you that cavities are bad for your teeth! If you also happen to have teeth cavities, then you are not alone! According to the national Institute of Dental and Cranio-facial Research (NIDCR), about 92% of all adults from 20 to 64 years of age have had cavities in their permanent teeth at some stage in their life. In addition, dental caries is the most common chronic illness in children!
Now, before we learn how to prevent cavities, we need to understand, how cavities are formed?
Here we go!
The plaque
Dental plaque is a sticky layer which keeps building up on your teeth all the time. Brushing and flossing removes plaque from most of the surface of your teeth. When plaque is allowed to accumulate onto teeth, it becomes hard and turn into dental calculus. Both plaque and calculus serves as a sanctuary for growth of malicious bacteria.
Role of Bacteria in Demineralization of Teeth
Dental Enamel, the hardest outer covering on your teeth is a crystalline mineral substance that protects your teeth from cavities and demineralization. When you ignore regular brushing and flossing, bacteria inside the plaque and calculus start producing acidic products and make the saliva less alkaline. Under normal circumstances, the pH of saliva is alkaline and it helps the enamel retain its mineral crystals by carefully maintaining a balance between bone resorption and bone formation. When saliva becomes less basic, the enamel starts losing its mineral content due to bone resorption.
What Happens When Tooth Demineralization Occurs?
When teeth start losing their mineral content, they become soft and weak. Thus, the enamel layer of the teeth gradually starts to diminish and the underlying dentine and pulp layers are exposed, causing sensitivity and making the teeth vulnerable to dental infections. Gradually, cavities start forming in places where tooth enamel has been depleted.
So, how is it my fault?
Daily brushing and flossing will keep the possibility of cavity formation low. However, plaque may still form in difficult-to-clean places. To prevent teeth cavities, gum and periodontal infections, you must make sure that you take out time for a dental checkup every 6 months. You miss any of these two and you stand risk of developing cavities.
Another important factor for the health of your teeth is nutrition. Everything we eat will have an effect on both our oral health and our overall health. Foods high in sugar, and acid are detrimental for our teeth. Limit the consumption if you are unable to eliminate it. Although it may sound cliché, you will notice a difference if you commit to diminishing the amount of sugar and acid that you intake.
Cavities in Kids
It is surprising and sad how much misconception or lack of knowledge there still is on children and cavities. Perhaps we have not done enough as community leaders and as a dental profession to propagate the message.
As a clinician, I often hear things like “ I didn’t pay much attention because it’s a baby tooth”. Now, we are not here to judge or blame, but rather enlighten. Child cavities, on baby tooth CAN CAUSE PAIN. Some if not many of the younger children with cavities will not know that the pain is coming from a specific tooth.
Furthermore, that child may become irritable, and start “acting up”. As parents or caretakers, we may not notice the relationship and we may start to think that the child is misbehaving. When in fact he/she is in pain, discomfort, and distress. His/ her behavior is solely an outlet for the pain.
Causes
o Bacteria- Primarily bacteria passed on to babies by mom or dad’s saliva prior to the age
of two. This can occur by kissing the child in the mouth or by sharing spoon.
o Nutrition- Food high in sugar produce acids that eat away the enamel.
o Poor oral hygiene- Allowing children to sleep without brushing their teeth. If under 2
years old, you may wipe their teeth with a wet gauze.
o Feeding to sleep- If your child falls asleep with a bottle, the milk (which contains
sugar) will cover his/ her teeth and can cause cavities over time. If they fall asleep
with feeding, again, wipe their teeth with a wet gauze.
Prevention
o Good Nutrition -Avoid or diminish sugars.
o Avoid kissing your child in their mouth or sharing spoons.
o Instill good oral hygiene habits, as soon as they have their first tooth.
o Try to avoid your child falling asleep with a bottle.

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