Nothing can take the joy out of your semi-annual dental checkup like learning you have a cavity. From a young age, we’re told to brush our teeth to keep from getting cavities. But what causes cavities? And how can we keep from getting them? Today, our Livonia dentist Dr. James Stewart answers those questions in an effort to help keep you cavity-free.
What Causes a Cavity
Cavities, also called dental caries, are bacterial infections that erode the structures of the teeth, beginning with the hard, protective, outer layer called enamel. The mouth is full of bacteria. Not all of them are harmful, but some of them are, and they stick to the outside of teeth and gums. More and more bacteria gather and form a sticky film of whitish residue called plaque. Plaque is the harbinger of tooth decay. Sugars from the foods and beverages we consume react with the bacteria in plaque to form acids. These acids erode tooth enamel and allow more bacteria to invade the internal structures of the tooth. Left untreated, cavities can cause severe pain and, eventually, tooth loss.
Arm Yourself in the Fight Against Tooth Decay
Preventing cavities begins with not exposing your teeth to certain substances. Sugar is a cavity’s best friend, so don’t let them play together. Avoid sugary foods. Also avoid starchy foods, like potato chips, because the starches are quickly broken down into sugars and have the same detrimental effect on tooth enamel. Soda is the worst offender. Not only are sodas loaded with sugar that eventually turns to acid, they are full of acids that can wreck healthy teeth. Chewing sugar-free gum and drinking water can normalize the pH balance in the mouth and decrease the risk of developing cavities. It’s also important to exercise proper oral hygiene. The following tips can help minimize tooth decay:
- Brush your teeth twice a day with a toothpaste containing fluoride
- Floss once a day to remove food and plaque from between teeth
- Use an antibacterial mouthwash
The Next Step
Healthy nutrition and proper oral hygiene can help prevent cavities, but it is also essential to schedule cleanings and checkups with your dentist every six months. Dr. Stewart will monitor the health of your teeth and work to keep you cavity-free. Call our Livonia dental office at (734) 425-4400 to schedule a consultation. We serve patients from Novi, Farmington Hills, Plymouth, Dearborn, and the surrounding areas.