How Do Cavities Form?

February is National Children’s Dental Health Month

By Alameda Pediatric Dentistry, Pleasanton, CA February 11, 2018

February is National Children’s Dental Health Month (NCDHM)! All month long, dental professionals, healthcare providers, and educators will come together to promote the benefits of good oral health. We’re here to talk about one of the biggest reasons to go to the dentist: to prevent cavities! The easiest way to prevent cavities is to keep them from forming in the first place.

Cavities take time to develop. Here is information you can share with little ones about the formation of a cavity. Once you understand the conditions that enable cavities to thrive, you can use this knowledge to help keep cavities at bay.

  • Each tooth is covered by a durable mineral called enamel. This coating is considered the hardest tissue in the body! But even enamel is vulnerable to attack. It all starts with eating. Imagine having a tasty breakfast, lunch, and dinner that might include your favorite pancakes with syrup for breakfast, warm cornbread with chili for lunch, and spaghetti with meatballs for dinner.
  • Your saliva contains mineral salts that help your enamel stay strong. In addition, drinking water throughout the day helps wash away some of the bacteria that build up in your mouth when you eat. But without brushing your teeth, much of the sugar and starch from your meals remain. This is essentially food for bacteria.
  • Let’s say you forget to brush your teeth in evening. Bacteria will continue to build into the night. Now, tiny particles of cornbread or spaghetti are ammunition for bacteria to grow. Bacteria love sugary or starchy foods the most. Over time, bacteria buildup becomes plaque and tartar.
  • As plaque eats up sugar, it produces acids that saliva or water can’t wash away so easily. The acids in plaque eat away at the minerals in your tooth enamel.
  • Tooth decay occurs when the hard surface of your enamel begins to dissolve and lots of tiny holes appear. With continual acid build up, these tiny holes get bigger, eventually turning into one big hole. That big hole is a cavity!

Brushing your teeth at least twice a day is so important because it washes away the food in your mouth so bacteria won’t thrive there. Seeing your dentist every six months also helps combat cavity formation because your dentist will remove the plaque that has built up over time, which may be hard for your toothbrush to reach.

Alameda Pediatric Dentistry has been serving children for over 40 years and has offices in Alameda, Oakland, and Pleasanton, CA.