What Do You Know About Cavities?

There’s a good chance that, at some point in your life, you’ve developed tooth decay. Cavities are the most common childhood disease, and around 90% of American adults have had a cavity in their adult teeth. Your Des Moines dentist Dr. Stephen Burds discusses cavities, their causes, and ways to prevent and treat them.

What is a Cavity?

A cavity is a small hole in your tooth caused by decay. While sugar is not directly responsible for cavity formation, as some people believe, it is a contributing factor. The bacterial buildup in your mouth, known as plaque, contains a particularly malicious bacterium known as Streptococcus mutans. This microbe eats the refined sugar (and other carbohydrates) that comes into contact with your teeth and converts it into lactic acid. Acid attacks and weakens your tooth enamel until bacteria are able to infiltrate past the defeated defensive layer and infect your tooth.

Preventing Cavities

Because S. mutans inhabits the mouth, the only protection against tooth decay is to control its metabolic reaction. Reducing your consumption of refined sugars will deprive the bacteria of the fuel it requires to produce acid. Brushing and flossing your teeth at least twice a day serves to limit the bacterial population in your mouth. Limiting the population of S. mutans will also reduce the amount of acid it can produce.

Treating Cavities

A contributing factor to the high instances of cavities is that they do not generate discomfort until they have reached an advanced stage. The decay begins at the outermost layer of your tooth, the enamel, and progresses inward. The only part of your tooth that contains any living tissue is the very center of the tooth, called the pulp, where blood vessels and nerves rest in a vulnerable bundle. By the time tooth sensitivity warns you of a cavity, your tooth has already developed a deep hole of decay. By visiting Dr. Burds at least once every six months for a dental checkup and cleaning, you increase your chances of detecting signs of tooth decay before your entire tooth is destroyed. To schedule a consultation, contact Dr. Burds at Gateway Dental Group at (515) 244-9565. We welcome patients from River Bend, Kirkwood Glen, East Village, and neighboring communities.