What Causes Cavities?
It’s one of the things that parents often warn their children about: cavities. If these evil things find their way into the little ones’ mouths, there would be much pain and discomfort, and they would have to stay away from most (if not all) things sweet and delicious, as punishment.
As amusing as this may sound, it does hold truth — and it does so for both kids and adults. You can get cavities at any age, and unless you want to leave out many of the foods you love to eat from your diet for the long term, and go through some serious dental treatments, you may want to rethink your dental habits and keep your mouth, teeth and gums in the healthiest condition possible.
By definition, cavities (also known as caries) are the decayed parts of teeth. What causes cavities, you ask? Check out the list below:
Eating certain foods and drinks — Dentists advise patients to avoid foods and drinks that cling to the teeth as much as possible to avoid the development of cavities. Examples would be starchy foods like breads and dry cereals, and ones that contain lots of sugar, like hard candies, honey, milk, and raisins.
Drinking bottled water — You may think that water, as plain as it is, shouldn’t be causing your teeth harm, but choosing bottled water over tap water could actually be contributing to the presence of cavities in your mouth. Tap water typically contains fluoride which essentially protects the enamel on your teeth from the buildup of plaque. If you must drink bottled water, check the labels to see if it contains added fluoride.
Repeated snacking or eating several meals — If you eat several times a day, regardless of what you consume, your teeth becomes exposed to harmful acids longer and more often.
Receding gums — The roots of the teeth aren’t provided as much protection by enamel when a person’s gums are receding; this makes the teeth more vulnerable to the buildup of plaque and, consequently, to decay.
How do cavities damage your teeth?
- When the sugars in the food you eat aren’t cleaned off your teeth right away, bacteria begin to feed on them, and acids are produced. This leads to the formation of plaque; in the beginning, plaque is soft and can be easily removed, but if you miss this window of opportunity, plaque hardens and becomes more difficult to remove — and serves as breeding ground for more bacteria.
- The resulting acids begin to take away minerals from your teeth’s enamel. This creates tiny holes, which are the first forms of cavities. The acids and bacteria can now access the next layer in the teeth, the dentin, which is softer than enamel.
- When left unresolved, the acids and bacteria proceed deeper inside the teeth, into the inner pulp where blood vessels and nerves are found. When the decay reaches the pulp, you experience sensitivity, toothaches and pain every time you bite. An abscess — a pocket of pus — can also form.
How can you prevent cavities?
To prevent cavities from developing, or to address their presence in your mouth, it’s best to have your teeth and gums regularly checked or treated by your trusted dentist so you can get the problem taken care of once and for all.