From a very young age, we’re taught to take good care of our teeth in order to prevent cavities from forming – kids will often brush their teeth furiously to avoid hearing the dentist say that scary word at their next cleaning. But most children, and even adults, don’t know exactly what a cavity is, what really causes it, or how to properly prevent it. So let’s get started on a cavity education:
What is a cavity?
While you may know that a cavity is a hole in the tooth, you may be wondering how it got there. It’s a decayed part of the tooth’s surface, where a hole remains once the actual decay has been removed. When plaque (the bacterial film on teeth) accumulates, the bacteria produces acids that attack and weaken the tooth tissues. Cavities can be found in the crevices of the teeth where we bite down, between the teeth, and also on the root surfaces of the teeth where gums have receded.
How are cavities caused?
The bacteria in plaque causes a reaction when met with the sugar in our foods. This creates acids that we mentioned, that weaken the tooth enamel which then allows cavities, or holes, to form.
There are some activities that are more likely to cause cavities, such as eating certain foods. Sugar, of course, is the biggest culprit, as are foods that cling to the teeth.
How can cavities be prevented?
When it comes to prevention, your toothbrush is your best friend. Brushing twice per day helps to break up and wash away the plaque that causes cavities, as does flossing once per day. It’s also important to use toothpaste that includes fluoride – this helps to strengthen the tooth enamel. Steer clear of sugary foods, and try to incorporate teeth-cleaning snacks and meals (read our handy list for help), and drink plenty of water throughout the day.
And of course, keep regularly-scheduled visits with your dentist. Your oral health team at Southeast Dental is here to help keep your mouth healthy and cavity-free!