What happens in my mouth?
When we eat foods, particularly foods that are rich in sugar, bacteria that are already present in our mouths gain a nutrient rich food source for themselves. These bacteria begin to form in a layer on our teeth that is known as “plaque.” Plaque is a mixture of food particles, bacteria and bacterial by-products. Plaque puts bacteria into close contact with teeth, and as the bacteria grow, they excrete by-products. These by-products are acidic in nature and acid results in breakdown of the hard outer layers of teeth, this is what we know as a cavity. Common causes of increased acidity, and hence increased risk of decay are:
- diets high in acidic foods and beverages with large quantities of sugar such as candy, pop, energy drinks and fruit…moderation is key!
- gastro esophageal reflux disease
- medications which cause dry mouth (saliva is important for rinsing away bacteria and acids on our teeth)
- prolonged episodes of vomiting over lengthy periods of time
- smoking which causes dry mouth and increased inflammation in the mouth
- poor oral hygiene
Our mouths are also filled with saliva, which is rich in mineral content. Minerals in our saliva join with the plaque layer and over time form “tartar” or “calculus,” a hardened layer on our teeth. This layer causes inflammation of the tissues around teeth, a process that is known as “gingivitis”. Over time, the inflammation coupled with by-products released by the bacteria erodes the bone and gums that support teeth. This process is known as “periodontitis,” which if not managed with proper home care and regular scaling treatments, can result in a person losing their teeth. Gingivitis, periodontitis and inadequate hygiene (including not brushing your tongue) are among the leading causes of bad breath as well!