A Great Buffalo Dentist
Call Us At: 716-823-2898
Email: 4adentist@gmail.com

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Cavitites

(Sorry for the long read, it is worth it though)

I will never forget my visits to the dentist as a child. Usually around three to four days before the visit, I would begin a crash program in oral hygiene. I would vigorously brush and floss five times a day and forgo the Butterfinger each day after school. Predictably, the night before the appointment, I would suddenly become deeply religious and pray for a cavity-free check-up. Why the last minute flossing and brushing did not work or why my prayers went unanswered, I later understood. However, like most of us, the dentist found the results of my most consistent behavior, that of benign neglect, the next day at my dental appointment. Some experiences in life are universal and the first visits to the dentist certainty fall into this category.

Dental cavities are considered a disease, of which four primary factors are involved. As the “drama” unfolds, the first factor, the teeth and saliva, set the “stage” for the bacteria (normally present in your mouth). These bacteria play the “heavies” in this drama and they are also the second contributing factor to the formation of the cavity. Food constitutes the third factor, of which the bacteria eat while in your mouth. This essentially is the same food you place in your mouth when eating a meal. The fourth factor is the frequency, or the number of times the first three factors overlap on this “stage” favoring the formation of cavities.

How exactly does a cavity form in a tooth? Actually, the process is very complex and some aspects are still not completely understood. First, for a tooth to be susceptible to decay the bacteria must adhere themselves to the tooth. They do this by combining with proteins in saliva and food debris, forming a layer which is known as plaque. Plaque, taken from the French verb plaquier (to plate), coats the tooth with these bacteria. They consume the food with which they come into contact with (the same food you eat) and often digest it within 15 minutes. They are very fond of easily digestible foods such as potato chips or sugary foods (Butterfingers in particular). However, they are extremely disappointed with such foods as broccoli. The cellulose is very difficult for them to digest. When the bacteria do get together to feast, they feast on junk food. Soon, of course, they are in need of relieving themselves. They do so by excreting an acid, which, if concentrated in one area, can actually dissolve the calcium in a tooth. This is known as an “acid attack”. If a small colony of plaque remains attached to one aspect of a tooth for a certain period of time, this little colony will cause a hole to form in the tooth structure. Every acid attack constitutes a small removal of tooth enamel.
Surprisingly, the tooth is able to re-mineralize these dissolved areas if given ample opportunity to do so. If the colony of plaque is removed or even temporarily dislodged, the acid attack will not occur in the same place, allowing the tooth some time to recalcify the depleted area. Of course, this is the role brushing and flossing play in prevention of cavities; mechanical removal of the plaque to facilitate the health of your teeth.

The typical “acid attack” during the waking hours is tempered by the presence of saliva in our mouths. The saliva, being much less acidic, dilutes the acid, reducing its strength and therefore it effectiveness in dissolving teeth. However, many of us do not realize that our mouths stop producing saliva after we have fallen asleep allowing the bacteria to inflict their severest attack to the teeth. This is why your dentist recommends flossing and brushing before bedtime. At least if the plaque is dislodged from the teeth before this dangerous period occurs, the “acid attack” is rendered virtually ineffective.

Even if all the plaque is not dislodged, the teeth are able to fend for themselves in other ways. A tooth, while rebuilding itself, will take up the fluoride and incorporate it into its crystalline structure. The fluoride is much more resistant to being dissolved by subsequent “acid attacks”. Hence, fluoride in our water supply has substantially increased the incidence of cavity-free teeth.
Today, I know why that last-minute flossing was a futile attempt at preventing cavities. Fortunately, I made it to adulthood. Candy bar indulgences gave way to a sensible diet and I brush and floss all year long. I realize today that consistency, in caring for my teeth, is the one crucial ingredient in maintaining dental health. Dentists are human after all. We can get cavities just as often as any one else. Today, as an adult and as a dentist, I see many children (and many adults) practicing the same last-minute tactics I practiced years ago. Some things never change. Perhaps, after work tomorrow, I’ll have just one…just one Butterfinger.

[small_button text="Go Back"title="Back"url="javascript:history.back()" align="left"]
2233 Seneca Street, Buffalo, NY 14210
Phone: 823-2898
Fax: 823-0903
Email: 4adentist@gmail.com
"My promise to you is that our office will treat you to some of the gentlest dental care available in Western New York. We provide this by utilizing the highest diagnostic skills, state-of-the-art dental equipment, treatment planning and procedures all integrated by our highly trained staff. Our team constantly updates its technical skills and strives for perfection in every procedure it undertakes. You have my word that the Hyde dental staff will listen to your concerns and desires and they will come first in any treatment plan we develop." - Dr. Joseph A. Hyde