Cavities, also known as dental caries, are one of the most common dental problems in the world. They are caused by a combination of factors, including bacteria, food, saliva, and poor oral hygiene.
Here’s how it works:
Bacteria in your mouth feed on sugary, starchy foods and drinks such as fruit, candy, bread, cereal, sodas, juice, and milk. As the bacteria feed on these carbohydrates, they convert them into acids.
The acids produced by the bacteria mix with food particles and saliva to form dental plaque. This is a sticky substance that coats your teeth and can be difficult to remove.
If the plaque is not removed through proper brushing and flossing, the acids in the plaque can dissolve the enamel on your teeth. Enamel is the hard, protective outer layer of your teeth, and once it is damaged, it cannot be repaired.
Over time, the acid from the plaque creates small holes or cavities in the enamel surface. These cavities can become larger over time, leading to tooth decay and potentially causing pain, infection, and even tooth loss.
In addition to poor oral hygiene and a diet high in sugary and starchy foods, other factors can increase the risk of cavities. These include:
- Dry mouth: Saliva helps to neutralize acids in the mouth and wash away food particles, so if you have a dry mouth, you may be at increased risk of cavities.
- Acidic foods and drinks: Foods and drinks that are high in acid, such as citrus fruits, tomatoes, and vinegar, can erode tooth enamel and make cavities more likely.
- Genetics: Some people may be more prone to cavities due to genetics, as they may have weaker enamel or a reduced ability to fight off harmful bacteria in the mouth.
- Age: As you age, the enamel on your teeth can become thinner and more prone to damage, increasing the risk of cavities.
The good news is that cavities are preventable with good oral hygiene and a healthy diet. Brush your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, floss daily, and visit your dentist regularly for checkups and cleanings. Limit your intake of sugary and starchy foods and drinks, and choose water or milk instead of soda or juice.
If you do develop a cavity, your dentist can treat it with a filling, crown, or other restorative procedure. With proper care, you can maintain healthy teeth and gums for a lifetime.