Sugar Bugs and How a Cavity Appears

On March 16, the Enlighten Dental team traveled to Ashley Elementary School in Winston-Salem and talked to second and third graders about dental health, prevention and food choices. What a great experience and what a  fun time we had as team coming up with the answers to all the questions being peppered at us by the kids!

The top question? “How does a cavity happen?”

The kids knew a little bit about the “sugar bugs” and how they can make a hole in your teeth. But really, how many adults know how exactly a cavity occurs? Here are the details:

  1. Foods that contain carbohydrates — starches and sugars — are the culprits when it comes to cavities. These include soft drinks, candy, ice cream, milk, cakes and even fruits, vegetables and juices.
  2. You have natural bacteria in your mouth, which forms plaque — sticky, colorless deposits of bacteria that constantly form on the hard, outside covering of your teeth, which is called enamel.
  3. When the mouth is exposed to frequent carbohydrates, the plaque interacts with these sugary and starch deposits and produces acids.
  4. The acids damage tooth enamel over time by dissolving or demineralizing the mineral structure of the teeth. This produces cavities and weakening of the teeth.

The important thing to remember is a cavity does not form overnight, and you can control many of the conditions that lead to getting a cavity, mainly:

  1. The amount of sugar and starches that are present for the bacteria in your mouth. (Cut out the frequent snacking!)
  2. The amount of time the bacteria have with those sugars and starches. (Brush after every meal with a fluoride toothpaste and floss daily!)

And, of course, see your dentist regularly for check-ups and professional cleanings. Finding cavities early and treating them will prevent them from becoming an even bigger problem, such as infections of the root canal or loss of the tooth.

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