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Colonial Dental Group Cosmetic Dentistry Blog - Dooley, Lewis, and Quezada

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

What is a Cavity?

Most people have had a cavity at some point in their life, yet not everyone realizes what causes tooth decay beyond a general idea of harmful bacteria. In ancient times, a tooth worm was thought to be responsible, but that theory lost favor in the seventeenth century. Spikes in the frequency of cavities have been found to correlate sharply with changes in diet such as the introduction of sugar cane and white bread.

Like most physical processes, the mouth, and teeth in particular are normally in a state of equilibrium. As the pH of the mouth becomes more acidic during eating, demineralization of the tooth occurs. Afterwards as the pH changes back to neutral, remineralization takes place.

Poor dental hygiene
Problems occur when the nooks and crannies of the teeth retain food particles, especially those of highly fermentable carbohydrates like fructose, glucose, and sucrose. The prolonged presence of these sugars feeds bacteria in the mouth, causing them to excrete acid substances. The sugars themselves are also acid. All this acid (low pH) eats into tooth enamel, and this is tooth decay. Each area of decay is a cavity and unless it is filled, infection will set in and decay will spread throughout the tooth, into the gums, and even into the jawbone.

Dental cavities are worldwide. If discovered early when still small, they are easily filled. If left untreated, they grow larger until the entire tooth is destroyed.

You can easily tell if your teeth are overdue for brushing and flossing. Run your tongue over them and if there’s a rough film on them, that is plaque. It’s bacteria and their excretions. You can (and should) brush and floss it off daily or twice-daily. Good dental hygiene also includes six-month visits to your dentist for check-ups and professional cleaning.

If you live in the Chicago area, and suddenly realize that it has been more than six months since your last dental checkup, please for your own sake, schedule an appointment today. You can also call or email us if you’d like a consultation about any other dental issues.

posted by Patti at 10:48 AM

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