It has affected over 90% of adults in America, and it is the most common chronic disease among school-aged children, yet many people do not even consider it a disease. Nevertheless, once tooth decay causes cavities to form in one or more of your teeth, seeking relief from the discomfort can become top priority fairly quickly.
In fact, many adults admit to having taken time off of work to deal with tooth sensitivity, frequently from the formation of cavities. You can learn more about cavities by learning how tooth decay develops, and how you can beef up your protection against it.
The Battle for Your Oral Health
Systemic health issues can usually be avoided by eating right and staying healthy to avoid the conditions that can lead to trouble. The approach to good oral health, however, is slightly different; your teeth and gums are constantly under attack, and keeping them healthy is a continuous battle against the many harmful germs that dwell in your mouth. You may have encountered these oral bacteria in their more obvious form—as part of the sticky biofilm they create called plaque, which coats your teeth and gums from time to time.
Silent, but Deadly
Different germs are responsible for various unfortunate dental conditions, but in the case of tooth decay, the Streptococcus mutans strain begins the process by converting sugar into acid that depletes the minerals in your teeth (demineralization). The enamel that covers and protects them depends on these minerals, and when it’s seriously weakened, bacteria can slip past it and infect your tooth’s main structure.
As the infection grows, holes called cavities develop in your tooth, exposing it’s vulnerable inner tissues. By the time a toothache develops to warn you of the danger, decay has already damaged your tooth structure and relief depends on removing the decayed tissue and replacing it with a tooth filling.
The Best Defense is a Good Offense
Your daily brushing and flossing routine is an effective attack on the germs that tenaciously gather in your mouth, but you’re still likely to miss a spot every once in a while. After about 48 hours, missed plaque hardens, or calcifies, into tartar, which requires a professional dental cleaning to remove. Your regular dental checkup and cleaning will also allow your dentist to thoroughly inspect your teeth for signs of demineralization and develop an appropriate treatment plan to avoid the need for extensive restorative dentistry.