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How does tooth decay form?

Everyone knows what a cavity is…but do you know how a cavity or decay is formed?  Yes, we know if we do not brush and floss, we stand a good chance of getting cavities, but let’s take a minute to try to understand our teeth and the decay process.

Every tooth is covered by a hard mineral called enamel. This enamel protects our teeth, but it can also break down and erode from bacteria.  Foods that are starchy or sugary can break down and become acidic, which will erode the enamel.  The more times you eat in a day, the more the teeth are attacked. The more sugar or starches that are on your teeth, the more there is a chance for the enamel to deteriorate and then bacteria can build.

Once there is bacteria, it forms into plaque (a soft gooey biofilm that can stick to our teeth.) This plaque grows and multiplies with the bacteria on the teeth. If you don’t brush, floss, and drink water, then they will eventually form tiny holes in the surface of the enamel.  This is what is called Dental Caries, also known as tooth decay or cavities.

What can we do to prevent tooth decay?  Well, our body naturally does this in one way. The saliva in our mouth is very helpful in preventing cavities.  It helps to keep our teeth, gums, and other tissues moist so as to help wash away the bits of food. Saliva can also help protect against some viruses and other bacteria.  That is why dentists recommend drinking water, in conjunction with our saliva, to help wash over your teeth in an effort to help prevent the buildup of bacteria.

We can also do things for ourselves in order to help keep our teeth healthy, and prevent cavities. We must brush with a fluoride toothpaste twice a day, floss our teeth at least once a day, drink plenty of water, and rinse our mouth with an alcohol-free mouthwash. It is also helpful to stay away from sugary or starchy foods, and of course, see your dental professional for cleanings and checkups twice a year.

Call Oklahoma City Dentist, Dr. Neely at (405) 302-0100 for an appointment.  We serve patients from Oklahoma City, Edmond, and surrounding areas.

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