Understanding How Cavities Form

Sanford Dentist

Cavities, also known as dental caries or tooth decay, are sometimes perceived as a minor nuisance, as dentists can easily treat them with fillings. But since they don’t typically cause symptoms early on, cavities can progress undetected for quite a while. Eventually, the tooth may become so badly damaged that it needs to be extracted. With good oral hygiene at home and regular trips to your dentist’s office, you can keep your teeth healthy for your lifetime.

What Bacteria Do in Your Mouth
The human mouth can house more than 700 types of bacteria, although most people only have a few dozen types, according to Colgate’s Oral Care Center. Just like in the gut, some bacteria in the mouth are beneficial. They support the health of the teeth and gums, and they facilitate digestion. Other strains, like streptococcus mutans, can cause tooth decay and compromise the health of the underlying bone structure.

How the Hard Enamel Wears Away
Every time you consume soda, fruit juice, bread, or other foods and beverages that contain starches, the bacteria feast on the sugars. As a byproduct of their meal, the bacteria produce acids. This sets the stage for the development of plaque, which is formed from these acids, bacteria, food particles, and saliva. Plaque is a sticky substance that coats the teeth and helps the acids eat away at the hard enamel on the teeth. This is the first stage of cavity formation, when the acids create tiny holes in the outer layer of the tooth.

What Happens If the Infection Spreads
If the process isn’t corrected, the bacteria and their acids will continue to burrow deeper into the tooth. Eventually, the infection can reach the inner layers. At this point, you’ll likely experience tooth sensitivity and toothaches, especially when biting down. If the infection continues to worsen, the dentist will likely need to perform a root canal to save the tooth.

At Sanford Dental Excellence, we firmly believe that good oral health and a great-looking smile go together. Our dentists in Sanford are pleased to offer tooth-colored fillings to our valued patients. If you’ve developed a toothache, you can call us at (321) 257-8528 for emergency dental care.