What is Causing my Cavities?

What is Causing my Cavities?

Specific bacteria such as Streptococcus mutans cause cavities. 

These bacteria are aerobic meaning they require oxygen to survive; having a 
dry mouth increases the chance for cavities. 

Cavity causing bacteria are different than the bacteria that cause gum disease, which lives in an anaerobic environment.  Both of these bacteria can be 
passed from person to person.
Plaque is also known as Biofilm. 

A microbial biofilm is a layer of prokaryotic organisms which adhere to a surface and are coated with a polysaccharide layer. 

​The biofilm increases the prokaryotic cells survival through increased defense, availability of nutrients, cellular communication, and the ability to transfer genetic material to each other.

A polysaccharide is composed of more than one sugar molecule.  Carbohydrates, Starch, Cellulose, and Glycogen are polysaccharides.

How the cavity is formed

Underneath the plaque, the bacteria produce acids as a by-product of their metabolism. 

The acids produced by the bacteria break down tooth structures, this is also known as demineralization. 

Once the demineralized tooth structure grows into an advanced bacterial colony, it is then defined as a cavity.

  • Metabolism is defined as the sum of all of the chemical reactions in a body, which breaks down larger molecules into smaller ones and releases energy, and which builds up large chemicals and requires energy. (2014) DAT prep by Kaplan Review Notes. New York, NY: Kaplan Publishing. 

  • For bacteria, their main energy source is sugar.

  • Demineralized is defined as the loss of bodily minerals (such as calcium salts) especially in disease; the process of removing mineral matter or salts.  
           “Demineralization.” Merriam-Webster, Merriam-Webster, 2019, www.merriam-                   webster.com/dictionary/demineralization.

How to Prevent Cavities

  • Plaque needs to be removed daily to prevent it from forming cavities and turning into tartar, tooth brushing is a physical way you can remove dental plaque.  Some kinds of toothpaste have abrasive ingredients in them which can help with the plaque and stain removal, but the most effective tool is your toothbrush.

  • You can remineralize your teeth by using fluoride.

  • Since your toothbrush does not reach between your teeth, it is important to use floss, this allows you to clean between your gums and tooth structures. 

  • Getting the cavity removed (advanced bacterial colony) and having a filling placed will help prevent the bacteria from spreading from one tooth to a neighboring tooth.

  • Have sealants placed, this is a preventative protective coating that will protect the tooth surfaces from the acid of bacteria.  “Are patients doing enough to combat plaque biofilm?.”  RDH Magazine, March 2019, Page 12.    (2014) DAT prep by Kaplan Review Notes. New York, NY: Kaplan Publishing.

For further reading see the source below from the American Dental Association (ADA)
Tackling Tooth Decay



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