How Tooth Decay Works

How Tooth Decay Works

Posted by Really Smile Jul 05, 2015

Tooth Decay in Carmel, IN

Do you suffer with tooth decay? You’re not alone. It’s one of the most frequent health complaints in the US, just behind the common cold (the number one complaint). Tooth decay leads to cavities, and if it isn’t addressed in time, it can lead to tooth loss, or could even be potentially deadly.

In addition to great cosmetic dentistry, we also offer general dentistry to help you keep good oral health, as well as a beautiful smile. One of the ways we do that is by providing education to our patients in Carmel, IN on exactly why common oral diseases and problems happen, so that they can take action and hopefully avoid pain and expense.

In today’s post, we’re going to talk about tooth decay: how it happens, and what you can do to stop it.

How Tooth Decay Works

Most people, if you ask them how tooth decay and cavities happen, would probably tell you what they’ve heard all their lives, that sugar causes cavities. While sugar plays a significant role (limiting your consumption of sugar is a good way to reduce your risk of decay), it is only one part of a more complex whole.

Tooth decay is actually caused by your oral bacteria. Your mouth is full of bacteria, and there’s nothing you can do about it; you were born with it, and it’s a natural part of the your body’s ecosystem. Regular brushing, flossing, and rinsing (at least twice a day) can control the amount of bacteria you have in your mouth, but you can’t ever be fully rid of it.

The bacteria eat sugar (more specifically, a kind of sugar called glucose); they access it through the tiny bits of food left in your mouth following meals, as well as from your bodily fluids, such as saliva. Unlike humans who are satisfied with “three squares a day”, bacteria don’t stop eating, and as they eat they excrete powerfully corrosive organic acids as waste. This is why most people say that tooth decay is caused by sugar; the more sugar you consume, the more food for the bacteria, and the more tooth decay you’ll experience.

How Enamel Protects Your Teeth

Enamel is a translucent hard substance that constitutes the outermost layer of your teeth. It’s the hardest substance in your body, and it protects your teeth from damage, including tooth decay.

If you were able to get close enough to look, you’d see that your enamel is made of mineral crystals (a form of calcium, for the most part). These mineral crystals are densely packed together on the surface of your teeth. Your enamel is analogous to a brick wall, and the individual crystals are the bricks. The brick wall that is your enamel is under constant attack from the acids your oral bacteria produce. Eventually, the minerals are lost as a result; this process is called demineralization. However, your body is able to “rebuild the wall” by replacing the lost mineral crystals; this is called remineralization. If the rate of demineralization is higher than the rate of remineralization, the acids will get past the enamel and begin to destroy the dentin, which is the softer, second layer of your teeth. Over time, the acids will destroy enough of the interior of your tooth that a hole, or cavity, forms.

What You Can Do

There are a number of things you can do to improve your ability to fight tooth decay. One, you should see your dentist regularly, at least twice a year for exams and cleanings. Your dentist and the Really Smile dental hygiene team will be able to remove plaque and even slow its return far more effectively than you can with even very disciplined oral hygiene at home (which of course also helps: brush, floss, and rinse with a mouthwash at least twice a day to regulate your oral bacteria). Another thing you can do is use toothpastes and mouth rinses that have a lot of fluoride.

Want to Keep Your Teeth Healthy?

At Really Smile, your oral health is our top priority. We use advanced technology in conjunction with years of experience and training to provide comprehensive dental care to our patients.

Make an appointment today! Dial 317-597-8748.

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