Dental Caries (Cavity) Information ~ Scottsdale & Glendale Preventative Dentistry
Dental caries are more commonly known as cavities. The formation of cavities is due to cariogenic (produces caries) strains of bacteria. Normal oral bacteria, including cariogenic strains, grow together in a group called a biofilm, this is dental plaque. The bacteria use the carbohydrates and other sugars in our food for energy, leaving behind acidic waste that dissolves the enamel of the tooth. A discolored spot on the tooth can form due to the enamel erosion. If not treated at this stage, the acid can dissolve the tooth structure further, from the enamel to the dentin and eventually, if left untreated, down to the pulp of the tooth. When the infection has reached the pulp of the tooth, there is the risk of the losing the tooth. Fortunately progression through the enamel and dentin is slow and has been found to be even slower in those that have received regular fluoride treatments.
An opaque white or brown spot on the tooth
Tooth sensitivity (to hot, cold, sweet food/drinks)
Visible pits or holes in the tooth/teeth
Common Causes / Risk Factors
Consumption of sugary, sticky or acidic foods: Sticky foods are harder to get off the tooth surface and are more likely to lead to cavity formation.
Snacking: Dental plaque starts to form about 20 minutes or so after eating; snacking allows more time between brushing for the plaque to remain on the teeth
Poor oral hygiene: Brushing the teeth (as well as other good oral hygiene practices) removes dental plaque from the teeth, therefore preventing cavities from forming
Chewing tobacco use: The high sugar content of chewing tobacco is likely to promote cavity formation
Dry mouth: Saliva contains compounds that not only help in the re-mineralization of tooth enamel, but also attack the cariogenic bacteria. Certain medical conditions and medications can result in dry mouth
One of the important parts of preventing cavities is good oral hygiene, which consists of: brushing at least twice a day, getting a professional cleaning about twice a year, and flossing at least once a day. Regular dental check-ups are important as well; early detection of cavity formation can reduce the amount of treatment needed and prevent further damage to the tooth. Fluoride use can help re-mineralize the tooth enamel in spots that are “worn”, but are not yet truly cavities. Sealants are physical barriers essentially painted on the tooth surface that can prevent or reduce cavity formation and are a particularly goof option for children who can have a hard time effectively brushing their back molars.
If you have or are at risk for dry mouth, use of products intended for this condition, like Biotène®, can be helpful in preventing cavities.