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The Truth About Cavities and Decay

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The Truth About Cavities and Decay

There are many misconceptions about cavities and decay and how sugar plays a part.  Tooth decay is caused by acid-producing bacteria in your mouth that feast on carbohydrates.  Sugar is sugar. Tooth decay existed long before candy was invented. Your mouth doesn’t care if it is sugar from candy or sugar from healthy fruits and breads. It will use the sugar found in both healthy and less healthy forms to wreak havoc on your teeth. Sticky foods–such as raisins and fruit bars/snacks–cling to your teeth. It is these sticky foods that do the most damage to your teeth if you are not immediately brushing after you eat. These sticky foods stick to your teeth and give the bacteria something to consume long-term.  Studies have found that tooth decay is related more to the frequency of eating than to the amount of starch or sugar. Understanding the relationship between cavities, decay and when and what you eat can greatly impact the health of your smile. Mountain Aire Dentistry is committed to helping you safeguard your smile through excellent patient education and preventative care.

What Are Cavities?

According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NICDR), your mouth is full of hundreds of bacteria, many of which are helpful/needed for a healthy oral ecosystem. But, certain harmful oral bacteria feed on the sugars you consume and create acids that wreak havoc on the tooth enamel.  Cavities are a bacterial infection resulting from these acids, that cause holes in your teeth. Left untreated, cavities can migrate past outer enamel of your tooth and into the deeper layers resulting in pain and possible tooth loss.

Understanding How Cavities Are Formed

Cavities and PreventionCavities begin from accumulated plaque on your teeth.  Some types of bacteria are naturally occurring your mouth, but they are fed into a frenzy of tooth-decaying action when you consume food or drinks that contain sugar and don’t rid your mouth of the particles by brushing/flossing. Sugar left to fester in your mouth feed the bacteria and produces acid. The combination of the food acids and bacteria in your mouth join with your saliva and produce plaque–that sticky film that wraps around teeth and if ignored turns into tartar. Both plaque and tartar break down the enamel (hard outer shell) of your teeth. Enamel breaks are the first stages of cavities in your mouth. Caught early, you can avoid serious problems with these tiny fractures in your enamel, but if left untreated, these small enamel fissures begin to attack the dentin and proceed further into your tooth structure striking the pulp–inner tooth structure.  Advanced cavities can even spread to the bone of the tooth. Cavities that have reached the pulp of the tooth will produce symptoms such as: sensitivity to sweets and/or hot and cold liquids and temperatures, toothache, and pain when chewing.  Advanced cavities will put your immune system into action, sending white blood cells to work against the bacteria in your tooth.  Advanced cavities can lead to a tooth abscess where a root canal becomes necessary.

How to Safeguard Your Teeth from Cavities

One of the best ways to safeguard your teeth from cavities is to actively work against them from forming with excellent preventative habits.  Consider incorporating the following habits into your oral care lifestyle:

  • Reduce Your Sugar Intake: Eliminate the source of food for the bacteria that live in your mouth.
  • Strengthen Your Teeth with a Healthy Diet: Cheese, yogurt and dairy products are rich with calcium and phosphates that work to strengthen your teeth
  • Remineralize Your Tooth Enamel by Increasing Saliva Flow: Chewing sugarless gum can aid in this process, along with consuming fibrous vegetables and fruits.
  • Brush and Floss Your Teeth Regularly: All food you eat is going to have some starches and sugars. You need these components to create energy for your body to live. Brushing and flossing removes these sugars from your teeth to protect them from cavities.
  • Use Fluoride: This mineral can prevent tooth decay and reverse it in its early stages, according to the American Dental Association (ADA).  Healthy sources of fluoride include: fluoride fortified toothpastes, fluoridated water, in-office fluoride treatments at Mountain Aire Dentistry.
  • Schedule a Visit to Your Dentist Every 6 Months: Catching cavities early is key to avoiding serious issues.  Your dentist will give you a thorough exam, cleaning, fluoride treatment, and help assess how you are doing with protecting your teeth from cavities.

Call for Cavities and Decay Consultation

If you are suspicious that you might have a cavity, or would like to learn more about preventing cavities and decay, call our office at (303) 731-7755. We will get you in as soon as possible. Dr. Berry is highly skilled and trained to provide a variety of dental services.  Our office is equipped with state-of-the-art technology to ensure you receive the best possible care.  We are located in Broomfield, CO with convenient access to the communities of Thornton, Broomfield, Northglenn and Westminster.