The caries process (cavity formation) begins slowly. Over a period of years, a cycle of demineralization and remineralization of the enamel of the teeth occur. The bacteria involved in forming cavities colonize on the tooth. As they consume food, they produce an acidic environment. This acid removes minerals from the tooth. Proper brushing and flossing routines disrupt the bacteria found in dental plaque and allows the saliva to produce a neutral (instead of acidic) environment in which enamel minerals are replaced. This process slowly leads to a cavity if the acid takes away more minerals than are replaced.
Tips for Cavity Prevention
Lack of brushing and flossing or improper technique can lead to multiple caries lesions (cavities). Even the best brushers and flossers might habitually miss a spot unknowingly or have a more cariogenic (cavity producing) diet. Acidic and sugary foods and drinks are the worst, but even bread has carbohydrates that can be consumed by the bacteria. Most people that have many cavities seldom floss and have habits that produce a lot of acid throughout the day (i.e. – sipping sweet tea, Diet Coke, sucking hard candy).
Ideally, one would brush about 30 minutes after every meal and floss every day; however, every other day for flossing is a great place to start. Also, drinking water or milk with snacks instead of juice or colas helps to reduce acid and sugar exposure. Sugar free gums containing the xylitol natural sweetener has been proven to help remineralize teeth and prevent cavity formation. With these gums (such as Orbit), look at the list of ingredients – the sooner xylitol is listed, the more xylitol is contained in the product. Prevention techniques and even prescription toothpastes will be discussed at your dental appointment.
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