What Is A Cavity?
A dental cavity is where a part of the tooth has been broken down by acid and become soft. The main way to fix a cavity is to drill away and remove the ruined part of the tooth to get down to good solid tooth structure and then replace what was removed with filling material.
How does a cavity form?
Bacteria + sugar = acid. There is a certain kind of bacteria that eats sugar and makes acid, and when the acid is able to sit on your teeth it starts dissolving the tooth structure. It is not always known why some people are more susceptible to getting cavities. Certainly brushing and flossing properly plays a major role in preventing tooth decay but sometimes people who brush the same get cavities at different rates. It is possible there may be different strains of the same bacteria, some more aggressive than others, or certain people may naturally have teeth that are more resistant to acid or each person’s type of saliva may play a role. Diet also has a major effect on cavities. Diets that are high in sugar and/or acids (like sodas) play a major role in weakening teeth and feeding the bacteria so they can keep their acid producing machinery in full production. With each introduction of sugar the bad bacteria can produce acid for about 30 minutes, which makes sipping on sugary drinks throughout the day particularly dangerous.
Let’s take a look at how a cavity forms
The crown of the tooth (the part of the tooth we can see in the mouth) is made of different layers. The outer layer is the enamel shell. Enamel is the hardest substance in the body and is the most acid resistant part of the tooth. It has no feeling and no innate ability to repair itself, though it can potentially be repaired, and indeed strengthened, with Fluoride. Under the enamel is the dentin. Dentin is softer than enamel but it does have a small amount of ability to repair itself, or at least react to the presence of a cavity. In the middle of the tooth is the pulp, where nerves and blood vessels are. This is the living tissue of a tooth. If decay reaches the pulp a root canal is usually necessary.
A cavity usually begins by making a small hole in the hard enamel and then spreading out and speeding up when it reaches the softer dentin.
Once decay reaches the dentin something needs to be done and that something is generally a filling. A filling removes all of the infective bacteria and the irreparable damage that has been done, getting down to good solid tooth structure and then replacing what was removed.
How can we prevent cavities from forming?
Fluoride. Regular and proper brushing will help remove the damaging bacteria, sugar and acid from your teeth, and fluoride is the best thing we have to help keep teeth cavity free. Teeth will soak up either calcium or fluoride and fluoride is harder and stronger than calcium. A tooth that is infused with fluoride will be more acid resistant and fluoride can sometimes even repair small acid damaged areas. That is why you want to have the proper amount of fluoride available for your teeth to absorb.
Tooth decay is one of the most common maladies that affects human beings. Visit your dentist twice a year to check for cavities and have a professional cleaning.
If it is time for your cleaning and check up call us today!