A: What starts a cavity is the repetition of a process that occurs in your mouth when sugars from the food and drink you consume interact with bacteria that live in the plaque on your teeth. That interaction produces acid, which begins a process called demineralization, the loss of calcium and phosphate from the tooth’s enamel. It usually starts in a spot not readily noticeable, like in a fissure. Eventually, in the course of months and months, the affected patch of enamel collapses, leaving a hole or cavity. Left untreated, the cavity will spread into the dentin, the softer, more sensitive part of the tooth under the enamel. If the excruciating pain hasn’t driven you to the dentist first, decay will eventually destroy the tooth.
One of the keys to preventing decay is the removal of plaque. Plaque is the filmy substance that’s on the teeth. The more it is allowed to build up, the greater the danger of decay. Brushing and flossing are so important because they are the most effective ways of eliminating plaque. Keeping sugar out of your diet is another key. Talk with your dentist about ways to cut down your risk of tooth decay.
Information provided by Norwalk Family Dentistry, 1101 Chatham Ave., 256-9000.