Cavities are formed as a result of bacteria present in our mouth that use carbs from food to make acid that erodes tooth enamel.
This bacteria can be passed from one person to another by using the same spoon or fork.
Low oral hygiene, smoking or drinking alcohol, dry mouth, and bulimia makes things worse.
What are the causes of cavities?
Cavities are more likely to develop on the surfaces that you use to bite and the areas between your teeth where food particles tend to lodge. Tooth decay may also occur in crevices around fillings where the filling has fractured or weakened.
Now, we all know that cavities can cause serious problems like pain, tooth loss, tooth abscess, serious infection, and trouble chewing. But have you ever wondered what causes cavities in the first place?
Bacteria Removes Minerals From Teeth Enamel
Your mouth contains bacteria that are harmful to your teeth and these tend to form a film known as plaque over your teeth. You may be able to feel this sticky substance if you run your tongue over your teeth before you brush. The tooth surfaces that feel slightly rough and furry rather than smooth is likely to have a plaque on them. The bacteria in plaque convert carbohydrates from the food or drinks that you consume into energy for its needs and, in the process, also produces acid. This acid can eat away at the enamel of your teeth in a process known as demineralization.
Saliva, Water, And Toothpaste Replenish These Minerals
But your teeth are not completely defenseless against this acid attack. Minerals like phosphate and calcium present in saliva and fluoride from water or toothpaste can help replace lost minerals and repair your enamel in a process known as remineralization.
Cavities Form When More Minerals Are Lost Than Replaced
Tooth enamel typically gets demineralized and remineralized many times during the day, but some factors can upset this balance. As a result, the rate at which minerals are lost exceeds the rate at which they are replaced. When this happens, over time, the surface of the enamel starts to break down, and a hole or cavity begins to develop.
As the decay progresses, bacteria first breach the enamel and enter the softer layer known as dentin which lies beneath. They then progress to the pulp which contains blood vessels and nerves. At this point, you typically experience pain. Bacteria can also cause an abscess in the pulp and even spread to your bone.
Risk factors for cavities
1. Frequent Snacking
Snacking frequently on foods with carbs like sweets, juices, and drinks increases the number of times your teeth come in contact with foods that can be used by bacteria to produce enamel-destroying acids. This means an increase in the frequency of acid attacks on your teeth and a greater chance of tooth decay. And it is unlikely that you brush your teeth or rinse your mouth after each snack.
2. Poor Oral Hygiene
As we saw, plaque contains bacteria which release tooth-decaying acid. The lack of an appropriate routine for maintaining oral hygiene can lead to the development of cavities. Brushing twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and flossing every day can help clear out plaque and keep your teeth clean. Oil pulling with sesame or coconut oil every day can also improve your oral health.
3. Infection By Oral Pathogens
Adults typically have bacteria that cause tooth decay in their mouths. But according to research, babies are not born with these bacteria. So how do these oral pathogens infect your baby? They’re usually passed on through the saliva of a caregiver, mostly the mother. And this can happen quite early in life before your baby even has her first tooth.
People with cavities have increased levels of cavity-causing bacteria in their mouth and are, therefore, more likely to pass it on. So, getting proper treatment for cavities as well as avoiding sharing things like forks or spoons with your baby can lower the risk of transmission.
4. Smoking And Alcohol Consumption
The use of tobacco can impede the production of saliva while excessive consumption of alcohol can play a part in the erosion of enamel. So avoid smoking and keep your alcohol intake moderate to keep your teeth healthy.
5. Dry Mouth
Dry mouth is a condition characterized by low levels of saliva in the mouth. Saliva is your natural defense against demineralization. Not only does it neutralize and dilute acids that erode your enamel but it also contains minerals that are used to remineralize your teeth. So low levels of saliva can increase your chances of getting cavities. Medical conditions like Sjögren’s syndrome, diabetes, disorders of the salivary glands, nerve damage, chemotherapy, as well as certain medicines can cause dry mouth.
6. Sodas And Sticky, Crunchy, And Sweet Foods
The bacteria in your mouth love sugar. So sweets or other foods high in sugar can be especially bad for your teeth. Sticky foods like dates or toffee which tend to cling to your teeth or crunchy foods like chips which can get lodged between teeth also increase your chances of developing cavities as they remain in contact with your teeth for longer periods. Children especially tend to gather cavities through this route.
Soft drinks and sodas also contribute majorly to teeth erosion. Not only do the high-sugar varieties feed teeth-decaying bacteria, but the diet sodas also contain high amounts of citric and phosphoric acid which erode the teeth enamel as well as the dentin. Use a straw to minimize exposure.
Bulimia is an eating disorder characterized by episodes of binging on food and then purging by vomiting or by using laxatives or enemas. Vomit is acidic, and excessive exposure to it can wear away the enamel of your teeth. This can lead to poor oral health and up your risk of cavities.
How to prevent cavities
Follow these tips to treat cavities naturally before it’s too late:
*Eat more alkaline foods like cruciferous and green leafy vegetables, cayenne peppers, and garlic to compensate for the erosive acidic nature of other foods.
*Eat more foods rich in calcium and vitamin D to compensate for the teeth mineral loss.
*Cut back on sweets, candy, fruit juice, soda, and foods with hidden sugars like processed and packaged snacks.
*Try oil pulling to maintain optimum oral hygiene and use fluoride toothpaste.
Conclusion: Cavities are a serious health problem today due to unhealthy living and eating so many sweets and drinking soda. To minimize forming cavities try to eat more healthy food and increase oral hygiene.