Most Americans have had dental cavities at some point. In fact, by age 65 over 90% of Americans have had a dental cavity. Having a good understanding of the cause of cavities and how to care for your teeth can help you avoid tooth decay.
While most people think that sugar causes cavities, in reality cavities and tooth decay is caused by the naturally occurring bacteria in your mouth. These bacteria feed on carbohydrates (which sugars are high in) and produce acids that attack the tooth enamel. Also, it’s not a matter of how much sugar or carbohydrates you eat, but the period of time that your teeth are exposed to sugars and carbohydrates.
Constant snacking or sipping sugary drinks is much worse for your teeth than eating a larger amount in a single sitting. In addition, brushing after meals removes the carbohydrates and the sticky film of plaque made up of bacteria and gives the bacteria less time to do their damage.
Acidic drinks and foods don’t directly cause tooth decay, but they can erode the surface of the teeth and provide a place for bacteria to collect and a cavity to form. When the tooth’s enamel is pitted or eroded, it has less ability to protect the tooth from decay.
Not all cavities are painful or uncomfortable. In fact, only the most advanced tooth decay will cause pain and discomfort. For the most part, cavities will go unnoticed until they have caused significant damage to the tooth. This is another great reason why professional teeth cleanings and dental checkups twice a year are important.
Once a cavity is filled by your dentist, the decay stops. However, a cavity can loosen or new decay can start on the same tooth. If there is a void between the filling and the tooth, bacteria will collect and tooth decay will start again.
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