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How Does a Cavity Form?

A hard, outer surface that dentists call enamel protects our teeth. When we eat healthy food, and brush and floss regularly, this enamel should theoretically last us for our lifetimes. Unfortunately, unwise eating has broken down Mother Nature’s perfect model. These days our enamel can often no longer withstand the strains that we place on it – when this barrier fails us, disease enters, dental decay follows, and then cavities form.

Plaque, Tooth Decay and Cavities:

The main threat to our tooth enamel is the plaque that builds up on our teeth. Plaque is initially invisible, and soft enough at first to be removed by brushing and flossing, or simply eating something crunchy like a stick of celery, an apple, or a raw carrot. When this does not happen, the plaque layer hardens like cement, and tiny bacteria take shelter in it. These bacteria release acids, which dissolve our tooth enamel, and then eat away at the bone beneath it that forms our precious teeth.
In the past, our ancestors followed healthier diets, thus the natural power of their saliva was potent enough to limit this effect, and help their tooth enamel to restore itself. These days, unfortunately, our diets are far richer in sugars including fructose, glucose and sucrose – sugar being the natural food of the bacteria that live in plaque. Extra sugar gives them the power to overcome our saliva, destroy our tooth enamel, and start rotting our teeth away.
Although, if we lower our sugar intake, it is still possible that our saliva can restore our tooth enamel, the decay process may continue unabated underneath. This is why it is so important to pay regular visits to a dentist – ask them for advice on the frequency of your visits, because this will depend on the condition of your teeth. As the bacteria continue to work away unseen, what was once a tiny cavity grows bigger as the decay works deeper down towards the living part of the tooth, known as the pulp. This is where sensitive nerve-endings become exposed to heat and cold, and send back sometimes excruciating sensations of pain. If still nothing is done to stop the process, then the bacteria finally cause an abscess in the root tip, which can be the beginning of the end of life for that tooth.

Chipping – Another Cause for Tooth Decay:

Chipping of enamel is another way for bacteria to enter the core bone that is our teeth. This can be the outcome of an unfortunate accident, but is more often the result of cracking peppermints, or biting down on something hard. Once chipped, the bacteria break through the damaged enamel, and the same process follows.

Caring for your Teeth:

Maintaining healthy teeth in their original condition is not difficult, provide that the following rules are observed:
  • Think before you bite on something hard
  • Brush and floss after every meal
  • Cut down on sugary foods and drinks, and rinse afterwards
  • Visit your dentist as often as they recommend
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