What Really Causes Cavities?

Cavities are little problems that can cause a great deal of discomfort. At Soft Touch Dentistry, we work diligently to help our patients identify the habits that will keep them cavity-free for life. In order to know how to protect your teeth from decay, you must first know what you are protecting them from.

Ask what causes cavities and most people would say sugar. This is true, but only to an extent. Sugar is an indirect cavity-causer because this substance is a favorite for oral bacteria. These microorganisms that live in your mouth consume sugar when you do. And what they do afterward is deposit acid onto your teeth and gums via plaque, a sticky substance that you cannot see.

Let’s Talk Acidity

Oral acidity is a prevalent problem because many people have plaque, and the pH, or level of acidity, of plaque is 4. The scale that measures acidity goes from 0 to 14. Higher numbers are more basic, and lower numbers more acidic. Squarely in the middle is a neutral 7. This is the pH of plain water, which is why water is one of the best things you can put into your body.

When you understand that it is the acidic byproduct of oral bacteria that causes cavities, which are essentially holes in enamel, you can realize the bigger problem that can occur with a chronically acidic mouth. Like waves of salt water break down hundred-year old rock formations, the “acid washing” that teeth get from certain common beverages can wear down enamel. We refer to this as erosion.

Enamel is incredibly strong, so it would seem that it takes a lot to erode the hard outer shell of teeth. Not so. One study has shown that an acidic sports drink can cause notable erosion after just one week of daily consumption. This is because sports drinks like Gatorade are just as acidic as Diet Coke, with a pH of about 3.3. Erosion of enamel occurs at 5.5.

How we can Protect our Teeth

It may not be necessary to completely avoid sodas, processed teas, coffee, and other beverages. However, when you realize how acidic they are, you may want to. If you do consume these types of drinks, brush or rinse as soon as you can so acidic ingredients do not linger in your mouth. Also, see your dentist every 6 months.

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