Do you know what causes tooth decay? While often chalked up to eating too much sugar and not brushing the teeth often enough, tooth decay is actually caused by the acidic secretions of oral bacteria. These secretions wear through your tooth enamel, causing cavities. Yes, these bacteria proliferate when you don't brush your teeth and spend all day munching on sugar, but those behaviors alone would not cause tooth decay if it weren't for acidic bacterial secretion:.
Protecting Your Teeth From Bacterial Acids
Knowing that it's the acidic secretions of bacteria that are to blame for tooth decay makes it a little easier to understand why dentists recommend certain behaviors for cavity prevention. For example, dentists often recommend that allergy sufferers work on clearing their nasal passages so they can breathe through their noses rather than through their mouths.
This is because when you breathe through your mouth, your mouth dries out, and your saliva isn't rinsing the acid off the surface of your teeth.
Understanding how acids cause tooth decay even makes the recommendation to avoid sugar make more sense. Bacteria eat sugar, and the more sugar they eat, the more acid they secrete. Starve them of sugars, and there will be fewer acids in your mouth to erode your tooth enamel.
How Other Acids Affect Your Teeth
If the acids secreted by bacteria cause tooth decay, then it stands to reason that other acids could have the result, too, right? In fact, this is correct. Acidic foods such as orange juice, lemon juice and tomato sauce can also erode your tooth enamel.
No, this does not mean you can never enjoy a plate of spaghetti again, but it does mean you should be careful to brush your teeth after eating acidic foods such as these. Other highly acidic foods to be careful of include:
- Cranberry juice
- Sour candies
Stomach acid can also contribute to tooth enamel erosion, which is why dentists often recommend rinsing your mouth out after vomiting. If you suffer from acid reflux, one consequence of always burping up stomach acid is cavity formation and enamel erosion.
The phrases "sugar causes tooth decay" and "bag oral hygiene causes tooth decay" are not exactly false, but they fail to mention the root cause of tooth decay -- acid. When you understand that sugar and bad oral hygiene only cause tooth decay through bacterial release of acid, all of those dental recommendations and eating guidelines start making more sense. Hopefully, the more sense they make in your mind, the more likely you'll be to follow them. Have more questions? Contact a professional such as Dr. James A. Dempsey for more help.Share