It might seem like cavities practically form overnight but they really don’t. There are actually multiple stages involved with the development of a cavity. Learning more about how a cavity forms can give you a better understanding of how to prevent them.
Stage One: The Formation of Plaque
Plaque formation is the first stage of development for a cavity. Plaque is a sticky film that forms on the surface of the teeth or around the gum line.
While plaque, which often has a clear, see-through appearance, may look harmless, it is actually extremely harmful to your teeth. It is made up of a combination of bacteria, saliva, and food particles. Once these three items combine it creates a destructive acid that can wear down the enamel – the hard surface of your teeth that protects the sensitive nerves inside your tooth – and destroy it.
Plaque forms when you consume food or drink that contains sugar. The sugars end up on the surface of the teeth and attract bacteria to it. If left on the teeth, the bacteria combine with the sugars and create the destructive acid that eventually leads to cavities.
Stage Two: Destruction of the Tooth’s Enamel
Once plaque forms on your teeth, the acids it contains start working to destroy the enamel of your teeth. At first, the acids in the plaque will only slightly wear away at the surface of your teeth. However, if they are left there for prolonged periods of time, the acids will start to create small holes in your teeth.
Stage Three: The Continued Acid Attack on Your Teeth
After small holes have formed on the surface of your teeth, the acid in the plaque doesn’t stop its cycle of destruction. The acid in the plaque will continue to destroy your teeth. The acids will work their way through the softer layer of the tooth known as dentin and then eventually make its way to the inner part of the tooth known as pulp.
It isn’t until the acids have started to destroy the pulp of the tooth that you will start to notice symptoms of a cavity. When the acids start destroying your inner tooth you will feel pain when eating or drinking, increased sensitivity to hot and cold beverages or foods, and a constant toothache.
Take Preventative Measures to Prevent Cavities from Forming
Cavities can be extremely painful but they are extremely easy to prevent. Taking a proactive approach to your oral health will help you prevent cavities from forming.
The best way to prevent cavities includes:
- Brushing at least twice a day. It would be ideal if you could brush after every meal, snack, or when drinking acidic or sugary beverages, but that isn’t always possible. Brushing at least twice a day will help remove harmful acids and plaque from the surface of your teeth before they have a chance to cause any problems.
- Flossing once a day
- Using the right toothbrush. Make sure you are using a soft-bristled toothbrush and one that is no older than 3 to 4 months.
- Limiting the amount of sugary or acidic foods and drinks you consume.
- Use a toothpaste with fluoride
Another preventative measure you can take is to schedule regular appointments with your dentist. Scheduling an appointment every four to six months allows your dentist to monitor your oral health and professionally clean your teeth. A professional tooth cleaning can remove plaque and tartar buildup that isn’t always able to be removed by your manual brushing.
In addition to a professional cleaning, your regular dental checkup can help you find and fix cavities before they cause too many problems. Your dentist will run x-rays and check for any potential problems. If he or she notices that a cavity has started to form, they can fill it before it reaches the inner layer of the tooth.
Don’t let cavities form unexpectedly. Schedule an appointment at Bonham Dental Arts for a routine checkup and professional cleaning. If a cavity has started to form, our dentists will be able to treat it before it causes extensive damage to your teeth. Call us today to schedule an appointment!