Millions of people around the world are affected by tooth decay and cavities every year, causing most of us to wonder what causes tooth decay and cavities in the first place!
What Causes Cavities and Tooth Decay?
Let me explain you the entire process here.
Here is a step by step description of the entire process of cavity formation and tooth decay:
Step # 1: Plaque formation
There are millions of bacteria present in our mouth all the time.
Those of you who take better care of your teeth may have lesser of them though. These bacteria, as a matter of routine, cling to the gums, teeth, tongue and lips. Now if these bacteria are not removed from time to time, they start multiplying very rapidly and proliferating inside the mouth to form huge colonies.
Most of these bacteria attach themselves to hard yet smooth surfaces inside the mouth namely the enamel on the teeth and stick to it.
There are two main things which provide the ‘ideal’ conditions for the bacteria in the mouth to multiply:
a) Consuming foods and drinks which contain lots of sugars and carbohydrates:
These include not only sweets, candies, chocolates and soft drinks but also refined sugars like bread, rice and pasta. While carbohydrates provide the bacteria with the food and nourishment they need, the sticky foods enable them to cling to the teeth and gums easily in huge numbers.
b) Poor dental hygiene:
Not brushing the teeth frequently enough and not flossing them allows the bacteria to continue to stick to the gums and teeth. Teeth which are brushed and flossed regularly are less likely to fall prey to acid attacks by these bacteria.
When they get the right environment, these colonizing bacteria start mixing up with the proteins and enzymes present in the saliva (spit) and form plaque.
Plaque, thus, is nothing but an obnoxious mix of bacteria, proteins and enzymes present in the saliva, food debris sticking the various corners and crevices of the mouth and the acid produced by these bacteria.
Step # 2: Wearing away of teeth
As plaque starts forming on the surface of the teeth, it is soft enough to be scraped away with a toothbrush or a finger nail. Though barely visible (at least, in the initial stages), it feels rough if you run a finger across your teeth or feel it with your tongue.
As time passes by without making any efforts to remove it, the plaque layer starts hardening. Within 10 days, it starts getting thick and hard enough to form a layer of tartar or dental calculus on the surface of the teeth.
Meanwhile, the acid produced by the bacteria present in this plaque causes wearing away of the enamel layer present on the teeth by causing tiny holes in the enamel, which are invisible to the naked eye.
Step # 3: Appearance of cavities
With the passage of time, these holes which were earlier microscopic keep getting bigger and form huge cavities due to the acid produced by these pernicious bacteria and soon become a cause of great discomfort.
They could cause toothache, tooth abscess, tooth sensitivity, tooth decay, gum disease and much more.
To stay away from cavities and tooth decay, keep following us and we will soon share with you some easy tips for preventing cavities. Meanwhile, we do hope that understanding the causes of cavities will help you avoid them!
Take better care of your teeth now that you know what causes tooth decay and cavities.