Young girl being checked for cavities

Everybody knows that cavities are the most common condition affecting a mouth’s health. However, many are unaware of the true causes of this disease. This article is intended to clarify some points.

What Are Cavities?

Cavities, also known as “tooth decay”, are small holes on the surface of teeth, which progressively go deeper into the inner parts and, eventually, lead to tooth pain.
Cavities present on the surface of the front teeth are visible at plain sight, but most cavities are located on non-visible areas, and are noticed when they start causing sensitivity or pain. A dental professional can locate cavities before they are painful, therefore it’s very important to check with a dentist or dental hygienist regularly.

What Causes Cavities?

  • Cavities are the result of certain bacteria, known as “sugar bugs” because they feed on sugar. Upon finding sugar particles, these bacteria release certain enzymes that chemically break its molecular structure, turning the sugar into more simple elements that the bacteria can consume. This chemical reaction leaves chemical residues that are strongly acid, and those acids damage a tooth’s enamel, causing the cavity. This small hole makes a perfect home to these and other acid-resistant bacteria, which grow and feed there, causing even more damage, thus enlarging the cavity.

It’s interesting to know that sugar bugs feed on refined sugar, but not on “natural” sugar; so eating candy increases the risk of developing cavities, but chewing a sugar cane does not.

How Can I Prevent Cavities?

  • Well, the obvious way to prevent cavities is to avoid all consumption of refined sugar, but this is not recommended, especially for kids: sugar is a very good source of energy, and kids need to include it in their diet. Besides… have you ever tried to prevent a kid from taking sugar? It’s just impossible.
  • So, the best “realistic” way to prevent cavities is a comprehensive brushing, good flossing and the use of mouthwashes, preferably alkaline-based. Even with all that, some sugar particles may remain, and some sugar bugs may hide from the mouthwash, so regular visits to a dental professional are recommended.

How Can I Get Rid Of Cavities?

  • Once tooth decay is there, the only way to stop it from getting worse is to fix the hole. Your dentist will clean the hole of any “garbage” that may be present there (food tends to get stuck in cavities, which causes bad breath and, in some cases, infection), then he/she will work the edges of the cavity with a small drill, to get rid of the bacteria living there. Once the hole is clean, your dentist will fill it with a special antibacterial product that will cover the cavity and prevent it from being infested by bacteria again.
  • If a cavity is too deep, to the point of having gone beyond the dentin and into the pulp chamber, then your dentist will need to apply a more radical treatment, such as root canal or extraction; but of course, if you keep good care of your mouth then you won’t have to face such an extreme situation.

Well, that’s all for now. See you soon!