Contrary to popular belief tooth decay does not occur overnight. It is a very complicated process which only progresses if the right conditions are present. However, to fully understand tooth decay, you must first understand exactly what is going on inside the mouth.
There are microscopic creatures living inside your mouth
It sounds gross doesn’t it, but in reality there are hundreds of types of bacteria living in our mouths. They live on our tongues, hide between our teeth and coat our gums. While some of these bacteria are of use to us, many are the main facilitators of tooth decay. The reason is simple, bacteria feed on the sugars present in our mouth. As the sugars break down, acid is formed and this acid works by slowly breaking down the various layers of our pearly whites.
THE STAGES OF TOOTH DECAY
The dental tug of war
We all enjoy a game of tug of war. But, do you know that the elements in your mouth are having one right now? Yes, it’s true and both teams are fighting for one thing: the teeth enamel.
On one side we have a colourless, gooey bacteria, dental plaque and his assistant, sugar. Their strategy is very barbaric. Sugar sacrifices himself to plaque, who breaks him down. However the sacrifice is not in vain because sugar emerges stronger and is now able to destroy the outer, hard layer of teeth, enamel.
On the other side of the rope we have a bunch of friends. There is saliva and his associates, the minerals. Saliva is also accompanied by fluoride toothpaste, fluoride water and other fluoride sources. This team are the peacemakers. They help enamel repair himself by replacing minerals lost through a process of remineralisation.
For 24 hours of the day, this tug of war continues. A natural cycle of gaining and loosing minerals occurs.
The Cavity Development and continuing decay
With too much exposure to acids, a white spot on the tooth’s enamel can form. This is called a cavity. This is reversible with remineralisation, but if the process is allowed to continue the enamel can be completely destroyed and the underlying layers exposed. If this occurs, a dentist such as Dr. Kang in Midtown Manhattan, will be needed to perform a filling.
Remember prevention is better than cure. Take care of your teeth by consuming less sugary and acidic foods, drink fluorinated water, brush your teeth with fluoride toothpaste at least twice daily, and have regular dental check-ups.