Everything you ever wanted to know!

If you ask someone what causes a cavity to form in a tooth you'd likely be surprised at what they might come up with.

What really does cause a tooth to breakdown?

Dental cavities (or caries or decay) are considered a disease. The five factors involved are:

  1. Teeth
  2. Saliva
  3. Bacteria
  4. Food
  5. Frequency of exposure to sugars or carbohydrates

The actual process is very complex and some of the details are not yet completely understood. First the bacteria combine with proteins in saliva to attach themselves to the sides of your teeth. This bacterial/protein substance is known as "plaque" and it is the white film that can be seen or scraped off the sides of your teeth when you haven't brushed in a while.

The bacteria in plaque uses the food that comes their way (the very same food you consume), sugar (carbohydrates) are the favorite food for these particular strains of bacteria. They digest it rapidly (within minutes) and a byproduct of their eating is an acid. Since the plaque is concentrated on the teeth (usually the back in-betweens), the acid is as well concentrated and then actually dissolves the calcium in your teeth. If allowed to remain for a long period of time, these frequent exposures to acid create an opening in the enamel cover of your teeth..................a cavity is born. Here's a great question. How long does it take for plaque to reform on the teeth? The answer is 24 hours. That's the big reason for the need for very thorough hygiene each day.

Teeth do have the ability to re-mineralize these dissolved areas IF the plaque is removed (brush, floss, etc). Saliva dilutes this acid in most areas.........BUT........saliva production diminishes while we sleep allowing the bacteria and acid to have their most damaging effect. This makes brushing and flossing just prior to bedtime very important.

If a tooth surface is thoroughly cleansed of plaque and is exposed to fluoride, it will remineralize most quickly. Fluoride is much more resistant to "acid attacks".

Home care, time of day home care is carried out, fluoride, diet... it all adds up. It is TOTALLY in the hands of you to control practically all the cavities that may form. No hygienist nor dentist can come to your home each day to perform the home care you need.

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Dr. Maury Hafernik
11645 Angus Road, Suite 10
Austin, Texas 78759
P: (512) 345-5552

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