Cavities are the most widespread (and among the most uncomfortable) dental diseases that can afflict your smile. The tragedy among the 90% of adults in America who’ve had to deal with tooth decay and cavities is that the disease is highly preventable with proper dental hygiene and regular professional maintenance. Nevertheless, many people don’t seriously consider the health of their teeth until tooth discomfort forces their attention to the fact that they have one or more cavities.
Knowing About Tooth Decay
Dental plaque, the sticky substance that can frequently coat your teeth and gums, is comprised of different kinds of oral bacteria, some of which convert sugar and starches into acid that weakens your tooth’s protective enamel. In time, bacteria slip past the weak enamel and infect your tooth’s main structure, called dentin, causing small holes (cavities) to form and damage your tooth. Brushing, flossing, and visiting your dentist regularly helps control this plaque buildup to protect your teeth from its harmful bacterial processes.
Big Trouble from a Little Issue
The enamel that protects your teeth is the strongest substance that your body produces, but it’s not invulnerable. Enamel’s weakness lies in the fact that it’s also your body’s most mineralized substance, and relies on specific minerals like calcium and phosphate to remain strong through a process called remineralization. When bacterial acid attacks, it saps essential minerals from your teeth (demineralization), weakening your enamel in the process.
If enamel erosion outpaces remineralization, the enamel will deteriorate and allow bacteria access to the more vulnerable underlying structure, called dentin, which comprises the main part of your tooth. Treating tooth decay depends on the stage at which it’s detected. If the infection reaches the dentin and cavities form, then time is of the essence before decay consumes too much of the tooth to save it.