February 23, 2016 3 min read

How Dental Cavities Form

We all can agree that dental caries, or tooth cavities, are a bad thing. While the loss of teeth, with its attendant pain and discomfort, is bad enough there are also other factors to consider, such as: inability to eat well leading to poor nutrition, the bacterial infections that accompany tooth decay and which can spread into the gums and throughout your entire system, plus the expense of surgery and dental repairs. Without doubt it is in your best interests to prevent cavities and such.

For you children it is a very, very important point. A child’s immune system is often more susceptible than an adult’s and so the bacterial infections pose a greater risk. Additionally there is a pattern between poor oral health and hygiene at a young age that is carried forward into adulthood. And with huge numbers of Americans losing ALL their teeth by age 65, well it is a big favor to your kids to get them off to a strong and healthy start.

So, in a simple view, what are dental caries and how do cavities come about? The simple answer is: ACID. Even if not chemists, we all know that acids can eat away at things and literally dissolve them. This can be a good thing, without stomach acids we could not break down foods and would starve. But in the wrong place ACID is a very bad thing.

The oral cavity is full of bacteria of all kinds. They are not bad by nature, in fact without bacteria you would probably not be here to read this! But when certain bacteria grow out of control, or out of proportion, then problems multiply. This is what happens when dental cavities come about, the bacteria produces acid and the acid attacks the surface of your teeth, the enamel, and “melts” it away.

The main bacterial culprits are the strains called Streptococcus mutans and Streptococcus lactobacilli which are present in the biofilm that coats your teeth. (BIOFILM means just what it sounds like, a living film of bacteria that coats a surface, in this case your teeth. Biofilm is very sticky and resists the entrance of other bacteria)

Food and drink (particularly from sugars and simple carbohydrates) stimulate these particular bacteria and in their life process they then produce acids. As they are in a biofilm, on the teeth, this brings the acid into direct contact with the enamel. The acids literally remove the calcium and the phosphate from the enamel, this is called demineralization, and the enamel gets thinner and thinner until holes open up. Without the hard, protective layer of the enamel then the softer interior of the tooth simply rots–and cavities are formed.

This process of course happens over time. Teeth are natively pretty strong and it takes an ongoing assault by the acids to create those cavities. This is good news because it means that tooth decay can be prevented. And, as they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

The actions to prevent tooth decay are actually rather simple, in fact they boil down to effectively controlling the bacteria in your mouth so as to prevent the long-term negative effects of acid on your teeth (as well as plaque build-up and gum disease).

As you will see, in further posts, a big part of why our oral probiotics are so effective is that they stabilize the pH in your mouth to healthy levels. This comes about primarily from rebalancing the bacteria–crowding out the acid-producing “bad” bacteria–and by restoring salvia flow, which is a powerful and natural means of controlling acid in the oral cavity.

Hope this helps and more to come in this series on GREAT ORAL HEALTH!


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