At my dental office in Fontana, California, I am always asked, “Doc, what is a cavity?” or “What causes cavities?”
A cavity is just a hole that acid eats in your tooth.
How does this occur? Where does the acid come from?
The acid in your mouth comes from two sources:
- Acid produced by bacteria.
- Acid that is present in your diet (food and drink).
Acids produced by bacteria work in this way: You eat something sugary or eat something that has a by-product that is sugary. The acid producing bacteria in your mouth use this sugar as an energy source. The waste product of these bacteria is lactic acid which lowers the pH in your mouth and destroys tooth structure. I’ve found that even foods that don’t seem like they would be a problem can cause cavities. For example, chips and crackers are a culprit because they tend to get stuck in the crevices of teeth and their ultimate by product is sugar. So make sure you brush right away after eating that bag of Cheetos.
The term that describes the destruction of tooth structure by acid is “demineralization”. The acid acts on the hard surfaces of your teeth and pulls out the calcium and other minerals leaving a little hole. Your saliva acts as a buffer to this process as it washes the acids from the teeth. However, when a lot of acid is produced, a cavity forms on the surface of the tooth and must be repaired with a filling or a crown.
Acid that is present in your diet is a direct insult to your teeth. Unlike bacterial acids which take a bit of time to produce, dietary acids are start working on the teeth right away. Many foods contain acids such as citrus fruit and tomatoes. The biggest source of dietary acids is contained in sodas like Coke, Mountain Dew, and Dr. Pepper and energy drinks such as Gatorade, Monster’s and Rock Stars. Sodas, energy drinks and other carbonated drinks contain carbonic and phosphoric acids. These acids are sometimes used to give these drinks their color. These drinks cause large drop in your oral pH with every sip. The acid in soda or energy drinks alone can cause serious tooth problems, but many of them also include a LOT of sugar. That’s why soda and energy drinks are especially damaging to teeth. They have very low pH and lots of sugar. If you just have to have a soda drink it quickly through a straw and drink water afterward. Also brush thoroughly right away to wash away that sugar and acid.
At WinningSmiles, we restore cavities with composite (tooth colored) resin. This procedure is called “bonding”. Your tooth will look healthy and normal after the procedure.