What is a cavity and what causes it?

A cavity (the disease caries) is the result of prolonged acid exposure over a weak area on a tooth.  A weak area is thin, chipped or malformed enamel.  Some grooves in the teeth are not completely formed together.  When this weak area is exposed to an acidic environment repeatedly, the enamel is dissolved and a cavity is formed.  The acidic environment is a result of direct acidity or indirect acidity.  Direct acids are acid that is directly applied to the teeth such as lemons, limes, tomatoes, stomach acid (reflux or bulimia).  Indirect acids are a result of the bacteria in the mouth.

There are numerous varieties of bacteria in the mouth and some are worse than others.  However, it basically works like this.  Bacteria eats sugar (or starch) – bacteria metabolize sugar or starch – bacteria poops acid.  Guess where these bacteria live?  Everywhere, but especially on plaque that is stuck on your teeth.  They love tiny dark spaces that don’t have light or oxygen, that’s why they love to live in between your teeth. Which explains why flossing your teeth is important, it disrupts their home.

So, it is a constant struggle, day and night, for the rest of your life as your mouth fights the battle of keeping the environment neutral – not too acidic and not too basic.  Your saliva is trying to be the referee in the fight for the teeth.  Saliva buffers acid, but it can only do so much.  When you take a drink of something sugary, the bacteria metabolize the sugar into acid and your mouth becomes acidic.  Your saliva kicks in and tries to combat the acid and neutralize it……..and just about the time that happens, you take another sip or you eat something starchy or sugary.  And so it goes, all day long until you disrupt all the plaque and bacteria with your brushing and flossing.

So, lastly comes genetics.  Did your parents have “good teeth” or “bad teeth”.  This really is a combination of 2 things: 1. Strength of enamel 2. Saliva mineralization content.  You see, our old friend saliva, not only neutralizes acid but it also carries calcium and other minerals to our teeth. You can strengthen the enamel of your teeth staying away from acid and using fluoride toothpaste as well as applying fluoride professionally when you see the dentist. Fluoride is super small and fills all the microscopic “pores” in your enamel making them much harder and resistant to acid attacks. It also has the power to kill some bacteria.

In closing here is how you stay out of the dentist chair:

  1. Watch what you are eating.  Stay away from sugars and starches.
  2. Brush your teeth at least twice a day. Once AFTER breakfast and definitely before bed.
  3. Floss 3-5 times per week.  There is a lot of surface area between your teeth!
  4. Come see us and let us clean your teeth, take xrays to see between your teeth, inspect them closely and apply extra strength fluoride to fill in those microscopic holes and make those teeth as hard as possible!
  5. Prevention and early detection are the key.  Sealants and fillings are affordable and less invasive.


Cedar Lodge Dental

An Appointment Today!

Whether you need a Hays dentist to provide your children with routine dental exams and professional cleanings or are interested in implant dentistry to fill the gaps in your own smile, you can rest assured that we have the dental services you need to achieve and maintain your best possible smile! To schedule an appointment with us, please give our office a call at (785) 625-7369 or complete the Appointment Request form. We look forward to meeting you soon and welcoming you to our practice where we give our patients plenty of reasons to smile!