Your mouth has a thriving community of bacteria. There are from 200-300 types. But relatively few cause tooth decay.
Bacteria that cause cavities are in the Streptococcus Mutans family. The bacteria mix with sugar. This mixture creates a powerful acid. The acid reduces the calcium in tooth enamel. When the bacteria stays on teeth, it produces a yellowish substance called plaque. Plaque is brutally effective at drilling into tooth enamel and causing cavities. Minerals in saliva and fluoride help enamel re-mineralize.
Special Caution for Parents
The tooth decay bacteria can spread through saliva. People in close contact with one another are at risk. Sharing spoons or kissing are two avenues. Mothers, fathers, siblings, and caregivers can the bacteria to babies. Young children whose teeth are forming are at a heightened risk of decay. It’s important that parents protect their children from early tooth decay. Start teaching daily oral hygiene as soon as your child’s first tooth breaks through. Childhood tooth decay is so prevalent that some parents believe it’s just part of growing up. But it doesn’t have to be!
Daily oral hygiene, a healthy diet, and fluoride protect young teeth. You and your child can get fluoride from toothpaste, fluoridated water, fluoride rinses, fluoride gels, and fluoride supplements. Ask your San Diego dentist which one is most appropriate.
The Role of Fluoride in Cavity Prevention
If the teeth are constantly assaulted with food and liquids (especially acidic or sugary types), the enamel never has a chance to re-harden. The combination forms the dangerous acid. Acid and plaque compromises the enamel and may cause a white spot. This is a sign of mineral loss. It’s the first step in the formation of a cavity. At this point, you can reverse the mineral loss.
Fluoride does three crucial things:
- It replaces minerals
- It prevents further mineral loss
- It decreases acid-causing bacteria
Remember that if you get too much fluoride, it can stain teeth. Your dentist can advise you on the correct amount. Also, most bottled water doesn’t contain fluoride. Keep that in mind if you and your family only drink bottled water.
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