Development of Cavities
Tooth decay, dental caries, or cavities – call them what you will, but no matter how you name them, they are an unpleasant thing to have in your mouth. Most of our patients have a basic understanding of how cavities form, and we all strive to practice good oral hygiene to help prevent cavities from forming. However, the development of cavities is a little bit more complicated than just germs in our mouths. We here at Palo Alto Oral Health would like to help educate you a little bit more about tooth decay, so we can work together to prevent it from occurring.
What is a Cavity?
Also known as “tooth decay” or “dental caries,” a cavity occurs when a hole forms in your tooth. Your teeth are comprised of three layers, the enamel, the dentin, and the pulp. The enamel is designed to help protect the more vulnerable inner layers of your tooth and is, in fact, the hardest material in your body. Despite this, it can be compromised by bacteria.
There is a common misconception that cavities can only form on the flat chewing surface of your tooth, but they can form anywhere on them. Tooth decay can occur essentially on any surface of your tooth, including on the front of your tooth or even between your teeth. None of your teeth are off limits to decay, either.
What Causes Cavities to Form?
Cavities form when you fail to remove the bacteria from your teeth properly. Every time you eat, you are feeding the bacteria in your mouth. These bacteria can build up on your teeth, creating a fuzzy layer that forms on them after eating. This film is called “plaque”. These bacteria give off acids that can penetrate the enamel, allowing the bacteria access to the inner layers of your tooth. Once your enamel is compromised by the bacteria, then a cavity forms.
A good oral hygiene regimen can go far in preventing tooth decay. You need to make sure to brush your teeth twice per day, both morning and night. You need to brush for two minutes per session, brushing 45-degree angle to the gumline. We advise that you use fluoridated toothpaste to help keep teeth healthy and strong.
After you brush, you will also need to floss your teeth. Start with an 18-inch section of dental floss. Work it between your teeth and up underneath the gumline. This can help remove any trapped food particles, bacteria, and debris that can collect there. You will need to use a clean segment of floss per tooth to avoid spreading germs around. You can use mouthwash, too, but please know that it is no replacement for properly brushing and flossing.
Keeping tooth decay at bay is a team effort. While you certainly do need to practice good oral hygiene at home, you also need to make sure you see us every six months for a routine checkup and dental cleaning. To learn more about cavities, or to set up your next exam with us here at Palo Alto Oral Health, please give us a call at (650) 250-4350 today!