What Causes Cavities?

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Everyone’s teeth are protected by a hard outer surface called enamel. Plaque, sugar and bacteria can slowly wear away that enamel layer, which compromises its protective qualities and creates a breeding ground for cavities. Norcross Dental wants people to know how cavities form so that they understand the role they can play in preventing them.

Tooth Decay

Cavities are caused by tooth decay, which occurs over time. The decay moves from the crown down through the layers of the tooth.

When teeth are not cleaned properly, the bacteria contained in saliva and food begins feeding on them and producing acids. The bacteria, acids, food particles and saliva then bind together and form a dental plaque that sticks to your teeth.

If plaque is not removed with brushing and flossing, the acids it contains begin to erode the tooth enamel. The erosion causes tiny holes in the enamel. After bits of enamel are worn away, bacteria and acid can get to the layer below it, which is called the dentin. Dentin is softer than enamel and acid resistant.

As tooth decay progresses, the bacteria and acid move through to the pulp contained in the teeth. This is where the nerves and blood vessels are. The pulp becomes swollen and irritated from the bacteria, causing a toothache, sensitivity, pain when biting or other symptoms. If left untreated, the tooth can become abscessed. This is a painful infection of the root of the tooth or even between the gums.

Chipped Teeth

Another way that bacteria can enter a tooth and cause decay is through a chip in the enamel. Obviously, if someone is in an accident of some sort, he or she generally knows they have cracked a tooth. If it occurs by biting on something hard, though, it may be harder to detect. In either case, the sooner the tooth is repaired, the better.

How to Prevent Cavities

Most people know how to prevent cavities, but just get busy and careless. It’s really just a matter of changing a couple of bad habits and getting into a routine of good dental hygiene that becomes part of your routine. Here are a few important reminders:

– Brush and floss after every meal, using toothpaste with fluoride.
– Be careful about biting into something if you don’t know how hard it is. If you believe you have chipped a tooth, get it checked right away.
– Cut down on sugary foods and drinks. The bacteria in plaque thrive on sugar, helping it to grow.
– Replace at least some of your sodas, coffee and other drinks with water. Tap water usually contains more fluoride than bottled water.
– Visit your dentist as often as they recommend.

Norcross Dental can recommend a dental cleaning and check-up schedule, depending on the condition of your teeth. Generally, twice a year is optimal to prevent tooth decay from spreading and to catch other problems.

To make an appointment with one of our dental professionals, call 678-235-9555 or schedule an appointment online here. We also provide some of the most affordable cosmetic dentistry in Atlanta. Whether you live in Duluth, Johns Creek, Lilburn, Roswell or Berkeley Lake, dentists at Norcross Dental Associates are a convenient drive.